WDW Tips and Tricks

Sunday, January 6, 2019 12:23 AM

Here is my opus on all the tips and tricks I discovered in my 9 months of research preceding our Dec. 2018 trip. I figured I’d collect them all into one document for my future reference and to help others plan their trips. It's mostly geared towards first time Disney travellers, since that was us, but I'd love to hear additions and feedback from more experienced WDW travelers.

I distinguish tips and tricks here by defining “tips” as things which Disney clearly allows and publicly advertises. The “tricks” are techniques and secrets which range from “not the intended usage of something, but a cast member would tell you it’s okay if you asked” to “requires outright lying to multiple in-person cast members.” You can decide which are for you and judge people who use the others.

Tip: Listen to Backside of Magic. Effort: Medium Value: High

More than 50% of what I know about optimizing a Disney vacation, I learned from the Backside of Magic podcast. It’s also really funny. Some of the stuff they talk about didn’t apply to us, some of it was more sneaky than I was willing to be, but quite a bit helped us a lot.

Tip: Just Ask Effort: Zero? Value: Medium

Most Disney cast members are trained and empowered to make your vacation magical. In many instances, they are able to do a lot for you if you just ask.

There are also a LOT of Facebook and online communities where people get as much fun planning and helping others plan as they get from actually going. Look up your resort on Facebook and see if it has a group. See if the Disboards or Touring Plans forums have the information you’re looking for. Get an account and ask. Just about everything I didn’t learn from Backside of Magic, I learned from the Touring Plans forums or from the Caribbean Beach Resort Facebook group.

Trick: Just Ask Effort: Zero Value: Low Sketch level: ?

If something goes wrong during your trip, whether you’re offered some kind of compensation, it can never hurt to ask for more. If you get stuck on a ride and they offer you one FastPass, it can’t hurt to ask for two. If a ride closes when you’re in line and they offer you a FastPass for that ride, it can’t hurt to ask for an “any ride Fastpass.” The worst that can happen is they say “no.”

Tip: Buy your vacation with gift cards Effort: High Value: Very High

Right around Halloween time, BJ’s wholesale club started a sale on Disney gift cards at 8% off. Coincidentally, my credit card was offering 5% points on wholesale clubs up to $1500. We bought $1500 of gift cards on that card and $6500 on my normal 2% back card. I think we saved well over $700. At the time, BJ’s online would allow you to sign up for a $10 online membership and then when you went to checkout, remove the membership from your cart so you didn’t even need to be a member. I think that’s gone now, but $10 is a small price to pay for such savings. BJ’s occasionally has sales on Disney gift cards, so keep an eye out.

We had already paid for our vacation, so we had to call up the Disney reservation hotline and have them refund our credit card and then apply the gift cards. We did this about 60 days before our reservation and I *think* you can do it up to 14 days before, but I’m not sure.

Also, you can only buy $100 gift cards at the highest discount, so you have to use disneygiftcard.com to consolidate them all. (You don’t want to be reading 80 gift card numbers over the phone). The maximum a gift card can hold is $1,000 so you’ll end up with a handful. (This website is also a good backup in case you lose a physical gift card: if you have it stored online, you can buy a new gift card for $5 somewhere and transfer the balance from the missing card to the new one).

I know a lot of people have said that Target sells Disney gift cards and if you have a Target Red credit card, you automatically get 5% cash back on anything you buy at Target, so that could be another good way to save. I also know some people swear buy ebates (cash back app) and similar apps as well as buying resale gift cards at raise.com but we didn’t try any of these.

Trick/Tip: Rent DVC Points I don’t know anything about this, but I know it saves some people some money.

Tip: Use a crowd calendar Effort: Low Value: High to Extreme

They’re not perfect by any means, but at least you won’t be surprised if you show up and the park is absolutely mobbed. The one I used is TouringPlans.com but you need a subscription to see more than 30 days out, I think. UndercoverTourist.com is also highly regarded.

Tip: Book during a sale or use a travel agent Effort: Medium Value: High

We booked during the free dining plan sale (usually available in April for vacations in the fall and winter) and got all our meals for free, which was probably worth well over $1k. The other big discounts are the room only discounts (you can add tickets and a dining plan if you want) which are usually made available in early October for stays in the spring. MouseSavers.com has a list of when each discount has been made available in the past and what travel dates it applies to. A lot of the selection for these discounts sell out FAST (24-48 hours) so don’t assume that because the sale expires in 3 months, what you want will be available in 3 months. If you can’t be bothered with these details often travel agents can get you good deals, will help you book Fastpasses, and can answer any of your questions. They get their commission from Disney so they’re free to you. I’ve heard very good reviews of Magical Vacations Travel.

Tip(maybe): Get to the park 30 minutes before it opens or 1 hr. if you’re heading towards a popular ride. Effort: High Value: Medium (Very High if you didn’t get a FastPass for a very popular ride)

They will often let people into the park well before the listed opening time and frequently will let people begin riding the biggest rides (Avatar: Flight of Passage or Slinky Dog Dash, for instance) 15-30 minutes before the official opening of the park. If you arrive exactly at opening, you will often be confronted with a multiple hr. wait. Other than 2 days, I didn’t want to get up that early (we were dealing with jet lag from CA) so we just planned around not getting there super early.

Tip: Use morning Extra Magic Hours or avoid that park Effort: Medium (using EMH) or Low (avoiding EMH park) Value: Medium

Extra Magic Hour is an entitlement for guests staying at a Disney hotel. One park will be open an extra hour early or 1-2 hours late for resort guests only. If you can wake up on time for the morning extra magic hour, you can get a lot done. Beware that the park will be a bit more crowded that day, though, so if you have park hoppers, it is often a good idea to leave that park around 11:00am and find a different, less crowded park to spend the bulk of the day. Evening Extra Magic Hours are a nice bonus, but usually don’t result in super short lines and usually don’t impact crowds too much.

Tip: Magic Kingdom Holiday Parties Effort: Low Value: Medium-Low

If there are special holiday parties at the Magic Kingdom (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas), the Magic Kingdom closes to the general public at 6:00 pm. It will be significantly less crowded during the day because people don’t want to get kicked out that early. If you’re planning on ending early (like for a dinner reservation or a dip in the pool) or you have park hoppers, this is a great day to go to the Magic Kingdom.

Tip: All things being equal, save Magic Kingdom for last Effort: Low Value: Low

This is a personal preference and many would disagree, but we had the most fun at Magic Kingdom and it’s the “most Disney” of all the parks. I think putting it too early could cause a let down at the other parks.

Trick: Save a couple bucks with the sliding window for dated tickets Effort: Medium-Low Value: Low Sketch Level: Low

The new dated tickets are priced based on their first day. However, they have a few extra days of availability in them (e.g. a 5 day ticket is valid for 8 days). If I know for sure that I want to go to the parks 2/25 - 3/1 then I can choose whether to buy my ticket starting on 2/25 ($81/day) or 2/24 ($80/day) or even 2/22 ($79/day). $10 per person isn’t a lot but if you don’t need the flexibility it’s basically free.

Tip: Room request Effort: Medium-low Value: Medium-low

If you know where in the resort you want to be assigned, you can call or fax (gasp!) a request for a particular room or area. While not guaranteed, anecdotally the success rate is well over 50%. There are templates for a fax request at Touring Plans and they have an automatic fax request feature.

Tip: Order groceries from Amazon Prime Now , Garden Grocer, or similar Effort: Medium Value: ?

Food at Disney is expensive and even if you’re on the dining plan, they may not have something you really want. The dining plan also doesn’t help you while you’re in line for a ride. We got a load of groceries delivered the very first night for a small fee (sometimes the resort will also charge you $5 to receive your package) which helped us pack a few snacks for mid-line hunger attacks and some other food items that we couldn’t find at our resort.

Tip: Use a Touring Plan Effort: High Value: Very High

A touring plan is a strategy or order of attractions you want to hit. Even a basic one like “First we want to do this, then that, then that” is better than nothing, but you can find many at TouringPlans.com which are optimized for expected line length and desired attractions. You can also make your own and the computer will tell you how long it will take or you can feed it a list of attractions and it will tell you the order. Obviously it won’t be perfect (“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” - Helmuth van Moltke, Prussian Commander), but it will give you an idea of what to expect from your day and how much you can expect to get done and which FastPasses to shoot for. This will also help you plan how many days you want in each park.

Tip: Use the My Disney Experience app. Effort: Medium Value: Extreme

It has great information for lines, park maps, lets you pre-order your food for some quick service restaurants, lets you book FastPasses, and if you’re staying at a Disney hotel (in room details), it can unlock your room, tell you when the buses are coming, let you check your dining plan balance, let you see charges on your room, etc. etc. It is seriously a major help for getting around. Note that the bus locator can tell you when a bus is coming, but if it says “every 20 minutes” that just means that it can’t locate a bus. The next bus may be more than 20 minutes away or it may be pulling into the stop right now.

Tip: Use mobile ordering Effort: Low Value: Medium

If you’re eating at a restaurant that allows mobile ordering, use it. You can put together your order on the app the morning of and then when you’re 5 minutes away from the restaurant, tap “we’re here” on the app and walk up to the mobile ordering pickup window, skipping the lines. Mobile ordering is part of the My Disney Experience app.

Tip: Single rider line Effort: Zero Value: Medium?

It’s not as good as a FastPass, but where it’s available (Test Track, Rock n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, it will beat standby. Of course, in exchange you don’t get to ride with your party.

Tip: If you prefer a seat somewhere on the ride, just ask. Effort: Zero Value: Depends on how much you care

My preferences:

Front : Rock n Roller Coaster, Space Mountain

Back : Expedition Everest, Splash (I don’t like getting wet)

Front row, center section (B): Soarin’ - this actually makes a HUGE difference in the ride. One time we were seated off to the side and the whole projection was curved in a funny way. It definitely took away from the ride.

Note that for Soarin’ this will cost you upwards or 15 minutes if you miss the cycle, whereas for the coasters, it’s usually just 2 or 3 extra minutes.

I also like the Alpha (standby) side of Space Mountain better than the Omega (FastPass) side and if you ask for your preferred side, they’ll normally let you go.

Tip: There are lots of handy references on the web. Effort: Medium-high Value:?

Some are quick and handy like a height limit chart, FastPass Priority Chart, Best Snacks on the Dining Plan, or Best Place to Watch Fireworks. Others were a little more in depth like our personal plans for each day and each park or some reviews of restaurants we were considering. I made a little booklet of all this information and we didn’t use all of it, but some of it came in super handy at certain points.

I laminated all my charts and plans. They laughed until we had a day with torrential downpour and everything was a ball of mush except my laminated references.

Tip: Learn about FastPass (henceforth FP), book early, use it often. Effort: High Value: Ultra Extreme

(Note: This is exactly the same thing as FastPass+, FP+, and FPP).

This is BY FAR the most important set of tips I have. FastPass is the best and sometimes only way to ride anything on a crowded day other than getting up early. It is also free and available to every Disney ticket holder. Learn about the tiering system. Learn about how to get more FP’s on the app. after you use your initial 3. Learn about the rules of getting FP’s while park hopping. Make sure you book your FP’s at the earliest possible minute you can (If you’re at a Disney hotel, it’s 60 days before arrival at 7am Eastern. If you’re not, it’s 30 days before at 7am Eastern) because even then many of the best rides will already be “sold out.” Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to get good FP’s. I have lots of tips and tricks to get more and better FP’s later in this document.

Trick: Book a fake leading reservation (Sketch level: high)

Trick: Book a throwaway leading reservation (Sketch level: medium)

Effort: Medium Value: High

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, your FP booking window opens 60 days before your arrival day and extends through your entire trip, for a maximum of 74 days (if you have a 3 week trip, you can only book the first 2 weeks at a time. Then you will need to wait a day to book FP’s for the 15th day of your trip, etc.)

The trick is, you can book FP’s with a reservation that you have no intention of using or that you plan on cancelling. The fake leading reservation trick is to book a room (if your real trip is a package, you need to book a package) for all 14 days before you actually arrive. Your real arrival day now appears to be the 15th day of your trip instead of the 1st and you can book 74 days in advance instead of 60. Once you have all your FP’s and your real FP booking window opens (60 days before your actual arrival day) you can cancel the fake reservation and the computer won’t know that you got the FP’s through a reservation that no longer exists.

Note that if you want to extend your dining reservation window (normally opens 180 days prior to arrival, opens for your entire trip up to 190 days) you need to actually overlap the fake reservation with your entire trip. When booking FP’s the computer will magically know to combine the two reservations, but when booking dining the computer will not, so a strictly leading reservation will not help you with dining.

The throwaway room trick is similar but you don’t cancel the reservation because you have additional scruples. Fort Wilderness campground has tent sites that are relatively cheap and if you book it for just 1 person, it should enable your entire party to book FP’s for the “arrival” and “departure” days. This is mostly useful if you’re not actually staying on site in which case it will also let you use Extra Magic Hours for 2 days as if you were.

For example, let’s say I was actually going to arrive November 30th and was going to stay off site and December 1st was my first park day. Normally, I would have to wait until November 1st to book my FP’s (30 days before). If I book a throwaway camp site for 1 person at Fort Wilderness for one person for the night of December 1st, I will be able to book my December 1st (arrival day on throwaway room) and December 2nd (departure day on throwaway room) for my whole party on October 2nd (60 and 61 days before). I will also be able to use Extra Magic Hour on December 1st and December 2nd.

Tip: Plan your latest parks for the hardest to get FP’s Effort: Low Value: Medium

Since your window to book FP’s opens for your whole trip 60 days before your arrival day, you will have a bigger advantage for the parks later in your trip. If there is a hard to get ride you definitely want to FP, try to put it that park later in your trip.

Tip: Book your FP’s for early in the morning Effort: Low Value: Medium-low

The goal is to use up all three of your pre-booked FP’s as soon as possible so you can start booking day-of FP’s. There are actually two schools of thought on this topic: a) book them as early as possible (right at opening) and try to use them as soon as possible b) book them mid morning (11:00 am) since lines aren’t that long early in the morning anyway. I personally think a) works better on more crowded days and b) works better on less crowded days.

Note: There are rules about whether a FP counts as “used” if you don’t actually tap in for it (you can tap without riding to get it to count as used, though). Specifically, I’ve heard that if it’s after your tier 1, you will be forced to reschedule it before you can start booking day-of FP’s, but if it’s before your tier 1, it will count as used. This comes up at Epcot a lot because the tier 2 Epcot FP’s are not very useful and a lot of people will just let them expire and then try to book another tier 1. If the tier 2 is after the tier 1, this may not work. When in doubt, just go tap in to get the FP counted.

Tip: Book the hardest to get FastPasses first Effort: Low Value: Medium-low

Once you know what you want to book, your FastPass day finally arrives (60 days before arrival), and you wake up early to log on, book the FP’s in order of difficulty. Don’t do each day at a time. Start with Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash, even if they’re on different days. In the 5 minutes you’re fiddling around deciding whether to do Kali River Rapids at 2:00 or 2:15, someone may be snatching up the last of the Slinky Dog Dash FP’s.

Trick: When you initially book FP’s, take anything and then modify (sketch level: very low)

Trick: When you book day-of FP’s, take anything and then modify (sketch level: low)

Effort: Low Value: Medium

The website and app don’t always show you all the available times. They initially show you suggestions and even if you do a broad search, for some reason there are usually more options if you already have an FP than if you don’t. So say, you want to ride Flight of Passage at 11:00am. You will have better luck if take a 6:00pm and try to modify it to 11:00am than if you just keep searching for 11:00am.

Once you’re in the parks and you’ve used your 3 pre-booked FP’s, the same applies. I’ve heard of people constantly refreshing hundreds of times and modifying closer and closer to the time they actually want until they get it, though I didn’t feel the need to put in that much effort. That said, it is not unusual to be able to get a FP for a ride and then modifying it to the current time in less time than you’d wait in line.

Trick: Ask the concierge at your hotel for more FP’s Effort: Low Value: Medium Sketch level: low

The concierge at your hotel is empowered to give you more FP’s. If you have a sob story or a celebration (“it’s our anniversary and we love Test Track, but we just couldn’t get FP’s for it online) they are more likely to help you out. We got a full set of 7 Test Track FP’s this way. You can repeat this each night if the person there is different, but you might be increasing the sketch level.

Tip: Sometimes it will help to split your party. Effort: Medium-low Value: Medium-low

You may not be able to find 6 FP’s for one time slot, but through modifying, maybe you could get 3 for 1:30 and 3 for 2:00.

Trick: FastPass grace period Effort: zero Value: Low Sketch level: low

FP’s are actually good for 5 minutes before the stated period to 10 minutes after (sketch level zero). And if you’re outside that window, sometimes just asking will get you in (sketch level low).

Trick: FastPass quantity grace Effort: zero Value: Low Sketch level: Part 1: medium, Part 2: high

Sometimes if you don’t have enough FP’s for your party, you can just ask and they’ll let you in. Sometimes you can sneak someone in if your crowd is big enough or if the cast member is busy with something else...like another member of your party asking a lot of questions about something. Often times the cast member won’t check to see if you tapped your band. Anybody for a re-ride?!

Trick: Magic band swapping Effort: Low Value: Medium Sketch level: Medium Cast members never check whose band a person is using.

If grandma doesn’t want to ride something, she can still book it and then hand her band off to someone who does want to ride. If grandpa is going to take the kids back to the resort and leave you on a date night, keep their bands and book FP’s on them. However, you can only use FastPasses on a band that has been used to enter the park that day. (Technically, you can use FastPasses for someone that hasn’t entered the park, but their account will be locked overnight, which is “really bad.”)

Trick: Modify your pre-booked FP’s once you use one Effort: Medium Value: Medium-low Sketch level: Low

When you pre-book your FP’s they cannot overlap. However, once you use one, the time it USED TO occupy is now available to modify another FP into. Imagine your goal is to get through your 3 pre-booked FP’s so you can start booking more and you have Space 9-10, Splash 10-11 and Thunder 11-12. As soon as you tap in for Space (8:55) you can modify Splash Mountain up to 9:05. You can then modify Thunder up to 10:05. As soon as you tap in for Splash, at say, 9:30, you can modify Thunder up to 9:35 and ride it as soon as you get off Splash. As soon as you tap in for Thunder, you can already be booking day-of FP’s. (Note: this is not a good strategy, as lines are usually short early on anyway, but I use it for argument’s sake).

Trick: You can search for and hold FP’s up to five minutes Effort: Medium-high Value: low Sketch level: Low

If you have an FP, (I think) you can still search for the one you want after. You will not be able to confirm it, because you’re still holding one, but it’s set aside as yours until you cancel or confirm it. You can have it up on the app. for 5 minutes before it automatically gets cancelled, during which time, you could tap in for the original FP and then confirm it. e.g. Say I have an FP for Seven Dwarfs at 10:00. At 9:51 I find a 10:15 FP for Space. I leave my phone on without cancelling or confirming the Space FP’s. Right at 9:55 I tap into Seven Dwarfs(because of the grace period) and then immediately confirm the 10:15 FP for Space. Tapping in for Seven Dwarfs will make me eligible to get another FP at which point I should be able to confirm the 10:15 FP for Space.

Trick: Flipping an FP to an anytime Effort: Medium Value: Medium-low Sketch level: Medium

If you have a FP for a ride when it goes down, it turns into an anytime/any ride FastPass. Once you’re in the park, you can often look for a ride that’s down on the app (put the wait times in list mode and look at the bottom) and then modify your current FP to that ride. Once that FP’s time comes, it will switch to an anytime / any ride FP. Obviously you shouldn’t do this with your very rare FP’s, but this works well if you have something you don’t really want to ride or think you can easily book again.

Trick: Late night lotto Effort: Low Value: Low Sketch level: Low

With the above trick, if the ride goes down late at night (~90 minutes before closing or later), instead of an anytime/any ride FP, you will get an anytime/any ride/any park FP for the following day. As you’re walking out of the park, book whatever FP’s you can, even if you have no intention of using them. Hope that the ride goes down and you get an anytime/any ride/ any park FP for the next day. The rides that break down near the end of the day most often are Test Track (15%), Frozen (8%), Kali River Rapids (7%), Dinosaur(5%), Splash (7%), Space (7%), and Pirates (4%). You can also play each time a park closes, so you could be in your hotel room and at 6:00 play late night lotto for an 8:00 Animal Kingdom close, at 7:30 play for a 9:30 Epcot close, and at 9:35 play for an 11:00 Magic Kingdom close.

Trick: FP Drop times Effort: High Value: High (if it works) Sketch level: Zero

There are known times when day-of FP’s are made available. As of this writing, Flight of Passage FP’s are made available at 11:01, 1:01, 3:01 and 5:01. You can either book them as day-of or modify some other pre-booked FP into them (assuming you don’t already have Navi River Journey, because that would violate the tiering rules). They only last for a few seconds, but if you’re on there at the time, I’ve heard you have a pretty good chance of getting one. Epcot drops Soarin’ and Test Track at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30 and Hollywood Studios drops Toy Story, Alien Saucers or Rock n Roller Coaster at 12:00 and 2:31.

Tip: All these FP shenanigans can be murder on your phone’s battery. Be sure you’re charged and maybe even bring a spare battery just in case.

Tip: Rider switch Effort: Medium-high Value: High

If you have someone in your party who can’t or won’t ride something with a height limit and can’t be left alone, whether they are a child (even one who meets the height limit) or an adult with disability, you can use rider switch. When you first approach the cast member at the entrance to the ride, ask for a “rider switch.” They will ask who will ride first (Party 1)and who will wait with the child (party 2). The person waiting with the child (Party 2) and two other people including up to 2 people in party 1(!), will get a free Rider Switch FastPass added to their account so that they can ride immediately after the first party is done. If party 1 is riding standby, they will add the Rider Switch for approximately when they expect party 1 to finish. If party 1 is riding by FP, they will add the Rider Switch for 5 or 10 minutes in the future.

So on Expedition Everest mom, son1, and son2 had FP’s. I did not and my daughter was too short to ride. We all approached the cast member, I asked for a rider switch and got a free RSFP for me, son1, and son2. Mom, son1, and son2 rode and once they finished, I also rode with son1 and son2. In total it took less than 15 minutes. This is the actual advertised use.

Notes: You can only hold one rider switch at a time and I don’t know whether the expiration time listed is actually enforced or not.

Trick: Rider Switch abuse Effort: Medium to Extreme Value: Extreme Sketch level: Low to Extreme

If your mind works like mine, you probably read the last paragraph and your eyes lit up. The most obvious benefit of Rider Switch is the actual advertised use. For instance, if we had a party of 6 and 1 infant we could pre-book 3 Soarin’ (Alice, Betty, Charles) and 3 Test Track (David, Evan, Felicia) and use rider switch to get David, Evan, and Felicia on Soarin’ and Alice, Betty, and Charles on Test Track. This is Disney’s intention.

Possible abuses of Rider Switch include having someone say they’re scared in order to generate rider switches, then “feeling better” and riding. Or having the same child generate multiple sets of rider switches (in the above example, have Alice go in first to generate RSFP’s for Betty, Charles and David, then 2 minutes later have Betty go in next to generate RSFP’s for Evan, Felicia, and a random stranger, etc). You could get in the standby line to generate RSFP’s for the rest of your party and then get out of line immediately and go have lunch and come back when the RSFP’s have become valid. You could even walk up and use a single FastPass get 3 RSFP’s for “your friends who will watch your scared kid”, leave the kid with grandpa and then have the 3 RSFP friends join you in line 30 seconds later. Couple this with swapping magic bands and you can basically sell your soul for a lot of FP’s.

Tip: Book your dining reservations at 180 days Effort: Medium Value: Medium

Just like FastPasses, the sooner you book, the more options you’ll have. Dining reservations for your whole trip are available 180 days before arrival at 7:00 am Eastern. As with FastPasses, the later you put hard to get reservations in your trip, the better chance you’ll have of getting them. Many of the same tricks that work for getting good FastPasses also work for dining reservations.

Tip: Pre-park opening (PPO) breakfast Effort: Low Value: Medium

If you can get a reservation at a restaurant which opens before the park opens, you can eat briskly and be in line for a ride before other guests are even let into the park. e.g. Be Our Guest will put you first in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Garden Grill will put you first in line for Soarin’

Tip: A QS meal is often more than enough food for an adult Effort: Low Value: Medium

At most QS meals, we fed 4 adults and 3 kids on 5 adult meals. Especially since we were on the dining plan,we could supplement with a few snacks if anyone was still hungry.

Trick: Dining Reservations are considered fulfilled by one person Effort: Zero Value: Low Sketch level: Low

If one person shows up for a dining reservation, it is considered fulfilled and will not render a penalty, no matter how many guests were on the reservation.

Trick: Multiple dining reservations Effort: Low Value: Medium-low Sketch level: Medium

You can’t book multiple dining reservations for the same time, but since cancelling reservations is super easy, you can book multiple reservations next to each other and cancel the ones you don’t want 24 hrs. in advance. If you have access to multiple accounts you can book overlapping reservations on the different accounts, as along as neither person is assigned to the other reservation.

Trick: Bump and Run Effort: Medium Value: Medium-Low Sketch level: Medium

You can’t cancel a reservation without penalty once you’re within ~24 hrs. However, you can modify the reservation to some date in the future, then cancel it. This is called a “bump and run.” Obviously you can use this if you decide you don’t want a reservation or if you were choosing between multiple reservations.

(Sketch level: High) However, you can also use this to avoid parking fees at hotels (guests with dining reservations don’t pay parking), many of which are walking distance to parks. You can also use this to get PPO access without actually eating (e.g. book a PPO breakfast at Garden Grill, enter the park before it opens, then bump and run the breakfast and go ride things instead).

It turns out you can also Bump and Run hotel reservations, so if you’re within the cancellation penalty period, but decide not to go, you can modify it to much later, then cancel it.

Tip: If you’re on the dining plan, character meals and dining packages are still 1 TS credit Effort: Low Value: High(?) Normally, character meals and dining packages (which get you FastPasses to Fantasmic! or priority seating for Rivers of Light) are more expensive than other meals. However, on the dining plan they all cost just 1 TS credit. So if you’re interested in them, you might as well book them. We booked all our meals with characters or dining packages just because we could.

Tip: QS dining plan credits do not have age, TS do except at buffets and family style Effort: Low Value: Low

If you’re worried about your kids having enough food or not wanting kid’s food all the time, take them to buffets or family style restaurants. They can eat all the adult food they want. If you’re at a QS restaurant, go ahead and order all adult meals - the credit use is the same.

Trick: Deluxe Dining plan age cheat Effort: High Value: Medium Sketch Factor: High

If you’re on the deluxe dining plan, credits do not have an age but are cheaper for kids. If you lie about your age when you make your room reservation, you can get the same credits for cheaper. You may get funny looks at Magical Express, but other than that, they shouldn’t care about your age.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Sunday, January 6, 2019 12:26 AM
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Sunday, January 6, 2019 6:31 AM

Tip: Epcot and Animal Kingdom fastpasses are not as needed as Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios due to the dreaded tier system.

At these two parks, assuming everyone in your party is over the age of 7 and willing to use the single line there are currently only 4 rides which FP will save you significant time all day: the two Avatar rides, Frozen and Soarin. Everest and Test track both have reliable single rider lines that at worst are 30 min. Disney only lets you book one of these 4 rides a day requiring you to waste FP on attractions that don’t need it (especially at Epcot.). If you are hopping to DHS or MK later that day and are willing to rope drop there is no need for FPs at AK or Epcot currently. While DHS has tiers, tier B includes RnRC and ToT which both are worthy of a FP.

Tip: If you’re in the Orlando area for something else and want a taste of that Disney Magic during Sept-Dec buying a party ticket will net you 8 crowd light hours in the MK.

Ive done this with both parties and been able to ride nearly everything I wanted to at the MK. If you have a party ticket official policy is to let you in at 4pm, 3 hours prior to the official start. In practice they usually open the gate as early as 3:30 and usually no later then 3:45. My suggestion is to arrive in the parking lot around 3:00. Also until 6:00 FP lines are available and you can book 30 days out FP with a party ticket. If you time your first window for 3:30 you will be able to book 3 (3:30-4:30,4:30-5:30, 5:30-6:00.). You should try for 7DMT, Peter Pan and Space as those lines will be over 30 min the whole night, you won’t get all 3 and for the rides you missed wait until the last 2 hours to ride. During your first 3 hours you should focus on seeing the high capacity shows that will be closed during the party (Tiki Room, Country Bears, CoP and Philharmagic) and eating in between FPs. Come 6:00 all day guests can no longer get in line. I usually start in Tomorrowland and go to Fantasyland hitting the rides I enjoy that aren’t part of the big three (PeopleMover, the FL dark rides) and getting free treats. Right around the time I finish Fantasyland it’s about time for the 8:30 castle stage show which I go watch, followed by the 9:00 parade and 10:00 fireworks. Right after the fireworks I head to Pirates and the Frontierland Mountains then the Mansion and lastly 7DMT (I’ve never snagged a FP for that one, and I’m willing to skip Peter Pan if I can’t FP it.). By then it’s usually just about midnight and I watch the final castle show before close.

Last edited by Touchdown, Sunday, January 6, 2019 11:48 AM
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Sunday, January 6, 2019 10:22 AM

Wow, that is a comprehensive list! I will say that the whole crowd forecasting calendar thing is fairly unnecessary. With dynamic ticket pricing and room pricing that was already dynamic, it's not hard to understand when the best times to go are. I'll also add that Magic Kingdom is always crowded, just less crowded on some days. The other three parks are probably not far behind in that sense, and I imagine that DHS will be as bad once the Star Wars stuff opens. I think the thing we're all wondering is will the new attractions (also at Epcot) better distribute the crowds or result in a net increase?

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Sunday, January 6, 2019 11:48 AM

I suppose "crowd calendar" in this case was merely a stand-in for "know whether you're going during a busy time of the year." There are lots of ways to determine that, but I am constantly surprised (apalled?) at the number of people who show up between Christmas and New Year's and don't realize what they've signed up for.

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Sunday, January 6, 2019 5:09 PM

I don't get it either. It's not a hard expectation to arrive at.

And it's about to get even more expensive at the peak (news item forthcoming). They're already going nuts with cruise line fares. I'm outright embarrassed to talk about what we paid to do a new year sailing, but I can assure you that they filled every stateroom. On the plus side, they made sure everyone had a drink in their hand at midnight.

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Sunday, January 6, 2019 10:06 PM

Thanks for the time you put into making this post. That's about as comprehensive as it gets, and you are certainly going to help out a number of people; especially first-timers, which we were not so long ago.

So, we're planning our next trip for what we hope is a sweet spot (relatively speaking); the first week of June in...

We will be a year removed from Galaxy's Edge opening, and I'm obviously hoping for the latter; that it serves to, at least to some point, redistribute crowds.

What's incredible is that for this trip that won't be happening until we all experience another Cedar Point season in its entirety, another Christmas and New Years, and the Browns' first playoff appearance in more than decade, I am actually booking this trip in 12 days. 499 days in advance. The advantage? According to the magical cast member I just chatted with, if prices do go up between now and then (which seems like a good bet), you get locked into the current rates at your time of booking. It's a "room only" reservation that you then convert into a package when they become available (which I believe happens in early June of 2019).

499 days in advance. And I'm not what anyone would consider a planner. And yet, I have to admit there is something fun about putting these trips together.

Last edited by OhioStater, Sunday, January 6, 2019 10:14 PM
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Monday, January 7, 2019 9:57 PM

I had an incredible amount of fun planning my trip. I miss it almost as much as the trip itself. I also got involved in a lot of Disney planning communities and while I'm still on there and occasionally engage, I have significantly diminished interest. If it weren't for my wife being all rational, I'd already be thinking about our next trip. (I mean, it won't be long before the kids outgrow Disney and only want to go to Universal).

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Monday, January 7, 2019 10:01 PM

I am also appalled at how many people don't understand that FastPass is free or for whatever reason, choose not to use it. I mean, I guess if you don't have the internet or something, but even then, just walking up to a kiosk and punching in 3 rides is not rocket science. Even if it's only 10% of park guests on a given day, that is still WAY too high.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019 12:34 AM

It’s funny, I’m at the age where I’m outgrowing universal and only want to go to Disney lol.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019 10:24 AM

If renting DVC points thru an intermediary and adding on anything else like a dining plan, create one of those temporary credit card numbers with a set limit.

We've gone thru one of the major sites to rent our points out, and I was pretty shocked the first time when they gave me the renter's CC number to add on dining. While the site handled the transfer of payment for the room reservation and held back 50% in escrow until the renter checks in, there didn't seem to be any such protections on add-ons.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019 10:29 AM

Tekwardo said:

It’s funny, I’m at the age where I’m outgrowing universal and only want to go to Disney lol.

I am in that boat as well now, but I definitely had a long stretch (teens through fatherhood) where I preferred Universal and didn't really "get" Disney.

Ken P said:

We've gone thru one of the major sites to rent our points out, and I was pretty shocked the first time when they gave me the renter's CC number to add on dining. While the site handled the transfer of payment for the room reservation and held back 50% in escrow until the renter checks in, there didn't seem to be any such protections on add-ons.

That's crazy.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Tuesday, January 8, 2019 10:31 AM
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 9:58 AM

Yep. I thought the main reason renters went thru one of those sites was the financial protection. Otherwise, just post your needs on one of the Disney forums and work out a private arrangement. It's probably a dollar or two cheaper per point via a private deal.

In November, Meijer offered 10% off a bunch of gift cards, including Disney, up to $500 per card.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 11:27 AM

I never really spent that much time planning before I became a local, but I also never did it with my kid. The last time as a tourist, Simon stayed with my in-laws and Diana and I did it ultimate adult style (that's when I completed a drink-around-the-world tour). At that time, FP's were still paper, so the bulk of our planning consisted of deciding on which parks for which days, getting the coveted Le Cellier reservation, and that was just about it. I think today I'd definitely load up my FastPasses in advance, but it's the only thing I would do differently.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 3:53 PM

Great tips. This should be sticky'd up at the top of the page.

I'll second the paying with gift cards option and look and see if it's available for your airfare. I've only done it with Southwest, but I assume other airlines offer the same thing.

Along with requesting a specific room location or area, spend the extra money and pay for a preferred room. I think it's around $10 per night and it gets you in a location close to the lobby/lobby building and close to a bus stop. This worked out well for us at Pop Century or any other resort with a single bus stop location. I've logged as many as 25,000 steps in a single day at WDW. I don't feel guilty about knocking off some time and walking distance at the hotel.

We purchased bottled water through Amazon on one trip. It was nice, but we didn't use near what we thought we would and ended up leaving half of the case in the room at the end of the trip.

I would put the mobile ordering on the app at a high to very high value. We used it at almost every park and saved a ton of time.

With Fast Pass and dining reservations, check the app for opening on the day of repeatedly. On our adults only trip a couple of years ago, we lucked into Be Our Guest reservations for lunch and dinner at the last minute.

Another second on the FP grace period. I've been as early as 15 minutes ahead and they let us in.

I also agree on bringing a battery pack for backup for your phone. I would recommend going with a lighter one with fewer charges. It saves you from carrying something heavy and the smallest ones usually hold 2 charges. I can't see needing more than that unless you have an outdated phone with a bad battery.

On cancelling a dining reservation, don't be afraid to call in if you can't cancel in the app without being charged. Give them your story and I bet they'll waive the fee. "We're full from lunch and going to another park" worked for me one time.

A tip on dining plan credits, look around for the charts that show you how to get the most value for your snack credits. There's damn near an endless variety of options and the credits are the same regardless of the price. Don't waste snack credits on cheap bottled water and fountain drinks. The best value for me is on ice cream, funnel cakes, Starbucks drinks, and, of course, Dole Whip floats. We've never ended up with a bunch of credits to burn, but you can also use them on some of the candy and baked goods at the shops on Main Street.

A couple of other things I would throw in:

Don't be scared of value resorts. You may spend more time on crowded buses, but I honestly didn't see much difference in the rooms at Contemporary versus Pop Century.

Plan appropriately for bus waits. I've only experienced an unbearable wait one time and that was mostly our fault.

If you find yourself in a situation where the bus wait is going to screw things up, use Uber or Lyft (not Disney's version). The fare is no more than $15 with a decent tip. We found this especially useful when we had to go from our resort to another for a meal. Buses don't run resort to resort, so you have to go to a park or Disney Springs and switch buses. The situation I mentioned above was trying to go from Pop Century to Beach Club and what would have been a 10 minute Uber ride turned into a 1 hour and 15 minute bus adventure. No good when you're trying to get to a late dinner reservation.

To piggy back on what Jeff said, don't be scared away by the idea that "you have to plan every minute of your trip!" I planned the crap out of the trip we took for my daughter's 5th birthday because we wanted to make the most of our time. We barely planned at all for our adults only trip because we booked it pretty last minute. We did a lot of planning for the family trip last summer, but because we had all been before, we left a lot of room for flexibility and managed more spontaneity that we could have.

One last dining tip: I used to turn my nose up at the Disney buffets because Crystal Palace was so bad on a previous visit. Not sure if it's improved any or if we just caught it on a bad day, but I've had great meals at Chef Mickey's at Contemporary, Cape May Café at Beach Club, and 1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian.

Last edited by bigboy, Wednesday, January 9, 2019 3:56 PM
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 7:54 PM

We were not at all impressed by the food at Crystal Palace (though the Pooh M&G made it easily worth it). I did really like Tusker House and H&V, though.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 9:22 PM

If you get the dining plan, do not get a preferred room. You need that extra distance to walk off all of the food. :)

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 10:56 PM

I give myself a pass since I do so much walking through the parks.

I have mixed feelings on the dining plan. It's a lot of food, especially on the top two tiers (I've only done the middle one - 1 TS, 1 QS, and 2 snacks for each night of the stay.) You have to watch to make sure that you cover the cost by hitting some of the higher end table service. We've used it twice. We did real well the second time in part because we got the lower tier plan free and just paid to upgrade to the second tier, but I don't think we covered it the first time since we used 2 credits to for Cinderella's Royal Table.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019 11:38 PM

bigboy said:

I'll second the paying with gift cards option and look and see if it's available for your airfare. I've only done it with Southwest, but I assume other airlines offer the same thing.

BJ's had a Southwest sale recently. I think it was substantial like 15% or something. Sadly, you could not combine the gift cards any way and Southwest will only let you use 3 methods of payment for a flight. While we were hemming and hawing, they sold out.

bigboy said:

Along with requesting a specific room location or area, spend the extra money and pay for a preferred room. I think it's around $10 per night and it gets you in a location close to the lobby/lobby building and close to a bus stop.

We stayed in preferred at Caribbean Beach and it was a nice feature, but if I were on my own dime, I wouldn't have done it.

bigboy said:

I would put the mobile ordering on the app at a high to very high value. We used it at almost every park and saved a ton of time.

We actually never used it, in spite of my endorsement and we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for food. Well, we never had to wait more than 10 minutes to order food. I tried a few times and failed for whatever reason and it never seemed super important.

bigboy said:

A tip on dining plan credits, look around for the charts that show you how to get the most value for your snack credits. There's damn near an endless variety of options and the credits are the same regardless of the price.

The best value for me is on ice cream, funnel cakes, Starbucks drinks, and, of course, Dole Whip floats. We've never ended up with a bunch of credits to burn, but you can also use them on some of the candy and baked goods at the shops on Main Street.

Best snacks and best value snacks was one of my laminated resources. I had a Dole Whip float and just didn't get it. I mean, it wasn't bad but it certainly wasn't as good as mickey bar.

bigboy said:

To piggy back on what Jeff said, don't be scared away by the idea that "you have to plan every minute of your trip!" I planned the crap out of the trip we took for my daughter's 5th birthday because we wanted to make the most of our time. We barely planned at all for our adults only trip because we booked it pretty last minute. We did a lot of planning for the family trip last summer, but because we had all been before, we left a lot of room for flexibility and managed more spontaneity that we could have.

We (I) planned the heck out of the trip and I thought it was worth the effort. We weren't there at the busiest time in the world, but it certainly wasn't empty either. Having an idea of what rides we wanted to prioritize and where there was flexibility in the schedule was probably enough to accommodate any unexpected speed bumps, and never needing to pull out a map and have a group discussion about what to do next saved us a whole lot of time and (more importantly) arguments.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019 10:21 AM

Oh, I guess memory maker shares are another trick I should add in there.

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Sunday, January 13, 2019 3:45 PM

When I first saw the length of the original post, I passed on reading it. However, after seeing some of the comments, I finally read through and most all of these tips are pretty legit. Thanks for posting. Even for this self proclaimed WDW expert, I even learned a few new things.

Specific to ADR reservations.....so if I make an ADR reservation and an hour before the reservation I decide that I cannot make it, or don't feel like eating, I simply change the reservation to another day and cancel, avoiding the day of $10/person penalty? This seems too easy, is this really the case?

A few times I've physically "checked in" for an ADR reservation and let the greeter know that I wasn't planning on dining and I wasn't changed the penalty, but again, I physically checked in for it. If there is a loophole to change it on the app, and avoid the penalty, this is a game changer.

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Sunday, January 13, 2019 3:46 PM
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