Dad's Top 10 Tips to
Avoid Disney World Crowds
I hate crowds at Walt Disney World. There ought to be a law that says on the days I goes to WDW, everyone else has to stay home. If only.
Since I can't get everyone to stay home, I came up with a list of my top 10 tips for avoiding Disney World crowds.
This is good!
Walt Disney World is the top family tourist destination in the world. So crowds are just part of the deal. The secret is to know how to deal with them.
Most of the tips are about dealing with the crowds in the parks, but the biggest thing you can do is to avoid Disney World crowds is... Nope. What Fun would it be if I told you the most important thing first.
You'll just have to read a little.
#10 - Get Professional Help
When it comes to avoiding the crowds at Walt Disney World I suggest you get some professional help. No, I don't mean like guys in the white coats (or maybe they do wear white coats come to think of it), I'm talking about Touringplans.com.
Yes, I'm a big, big fan of TouringPlans.com. I use them to get ready for every trip. I use Touringplans to pick which day to go to which park. I use their planning software to outline my days, I use the Lines app in the parks and I can't wait to try the hotel room choosing tool to pick my room on our next trip.
Check out Dad's Touringplans page for a discount code on a subscription.
#9 - Be Flexible
What do we do when everyone in the whole world (or a large tour group from a South American country that shall remain nameless) shows up right in front of you?
You yell and scream and demand they go somewhere else.
That doesn't sound like a good idea.
Maybe not. OK, try this.
Be flexible. Take a look around and see how you can change things up. Skip a couple of rides. You can always come back to them later. Maybe grab a snack and people watch for a while.
The big thing is to relax, YOU ARE AT WALT DISNEY WORLD!!! Things will be OK!
Just be flexible.
#8 - Take Advantage Of Parades
A little known way to avoid Walt Disney World crowds is to take advantage of parade time.
Parade time, mainly at the Magic Kingdom, is a good time to hit the rides. Think about it. Billions of people line up on Main Street and all around the park for the parades.
That's billions of people that aren't in line for the rides. That means lines are shorter during the hour around parade time.
#7 - Eat at Odd Times
Speaking of taking advantage of certain times of the day to avoid crowds...
Eat at Odd Times.
People like to eat during "normal" hours. There's nothing wrong with that. But it's an opportunity. During "normal" eating hours, especially supper hours, lines tend to get a little shorter because a lot of people are eating.
It happens to a smaller degree at lunch.
So eat at odd times, say 2:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon or after 8:30 at night and use those "normal" hours for missing the crowds.
#6 - Rain is Your Friend
"Seems it never rains in Southern California..."
Yeah, but it rains all the time in Central Florida. Dad's #6 tip to avoid Disney World crowds is to keep going when it rains.
Rain can be really annoying when you are on vacation. It can ruin the best of plans. But it a secret weapon when it comes to the parks.
When it starts raining at Walt Disney World, guests stream out of the parks in droves. It's a good time to keep plugging along.
Most of the rides are covered and stay open during rainstorms. (You can also buy a really cool poncho) Florida rain usually doesn't stick around long, so if you get caught in a sudden rain shower, grab some soap ... sorry, take a break, grab a Coke or see an inside show, then get right back to touring. You never know, the park might just empty and you'll be all alone (dream on).
#5 - Use Extra Magic Hours
Using Disney's Extra Magic Hours (EMH) is another of Dad's amazing Disney World Crowd tips. Extra Magic Hours are available to Disney Resort guests (guests staying in Disney hotels). EMH is a program that allows guests to enter the park one hour prior to the official park opening, or stay up to 2 hours after everyone leaves.
During Extra Magic Hours, especially morning EMH the crowds in the parks are the smallest of the day.
I tested morning Extra Magic Hours at Epcot a while back. I got to Epcot just after 8 and was on my first ride at 8:20. By 9:15 I had ridden Soarin', Test Track and Mission Space.
At 9:30 and decided to try those 3 again. I got through Mission Space and Test Track (with a FastPass) by 10:20 and headed over to Soarin' where the line was 65 minutes long. It would have taken well over 2 hours to complete what I did in 1 hour during EMH.
Evening Extra Magic Hours can be a little busier, but they last longer. The later the evening EMH the smaller the crowds.
Check out the park schedule for your trip and see if you can use Extra Magic Hours to avoid the crowds.
#4 - Figure Out How to Master FASTPASS+
FastPass+ (FP+) may be the best tool Disney offers to help Walt Disney World crowds.
FastPass+ is Disney's go to the front of the line tool. With the new version of FP+ you can actually schedule your arrival times at attractions up to 60 days in advance. It's a planners dream.
Figuring out how to master FastPass+ is kind of important. It can save you hours waiting in line.
Check out Dad's FastPass+ page for more information.
#3 - Ride the "Busy" Rides First
When the park opens walk quickly (Disney frowns on running) to the attraction that will have the longest line during the day (see below). Try to finish the long line rides as soon as possible. Then you can enjoy a nice leisurely pace the rest of the day.
Long line attractions -
- Space Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear's Ranger Spin
- Peter Pan's Flight
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Disney's Hollywood Studios
You'll thank me for this, I promise.
#2A - Have a Plan
If you are going on a Walt Disney World vacation during any of the busier times of year, and want to avoid Walt Disney World crowds, you should (read absolutely must) have a game plan.
How many times have you seen this?
A family walks into the Magic Kingdom, walks 10 feet down Main Street and stops dead right in the middle of the street. Dad pulls out the map, which mom quickly grabs out of his hands, (because we all know that Dad's can't read maps) and the family proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes "discussing" what ride they are going to ride.
Most of the time they are trying to find that new roller coaster ride they've heard about called "something about Mount Everest?"
These people need my help.
Your plan doesn't have to be real detailed or involved, but you should have a general idea of:
- Where you are going to eat
- If you are planning a table service meal you need to have Advanced Dining Reservations made. See Dad's Disney Dining pages for more information
- A rough idea of when you are going to eat
- The rides and shows you must see each day
- Where to meet in case of someone getting misplaced
- Just saying to meet at the Castle is not good enough. The Castle is a big place with thousands of people milling about. You should specify something like the Walt and Mickey statue in front of the Castle.
Make sure you have discussed your plan with your whole party. (Here's what happened the first, and last time Dad made a plan and didn't discuss it with anyone.)
Can you go to Disney World without a plan? Sure, thousands of people do it every day. But if you are serious about avoiding Disney World crowds and you want to get the most out of your Disney World vacation, you need a plan. (Check out Dad's Nine by Noon Challenge for more information about planning for the Magic Kingdom.)
#2 - Get to the Parks Early
Come on lazy bones (I mean that in the nicest possible way), get out of bed and get moving, it's Disney World. You don't get to sleep at Disney World. What do you think this is a vacation?
Most "normal" people will try to get some rest on their vacations. That's why the first two or three hours the parks are open are the slowest times (crowd wise) of the day.
Take advantage of it. Try to get to the park at least 20 minutes before the scheduled opening time. You'll have the park all to yourself. OK, maybe not all to yourself, but it will be the least busy the first hour of the morning.
#1 - Choose the Best Time to Visit Disney World
The number one Disney World Crowd Tip Dad can give you for avoiding the crowds at all the parks is plan your trip when the crowds will be light. It can be tricky, but Dad's here to help.
I have created a page with all the information you need to choose the best time to visit WDW. It's really good.
Trust me, this is truly the number 1, the NUMERO UNO, the Big Dog, the Ultimate way, (should I go on?) to avoid Walt Disney World Crowds. Changing your trip by a few days can mean the difference between light crowds and out of control crowds.
Destinations to Travel
Here's a little bonus tip. Get in touch with our partners at Destinations to Travel and let them help you avoid the Walt Disney World crowds. Yes, I serious.
Your Destinations to Travel agent will:
- Help you choose the best time to visit
- Assist with making FastPass+ reservations
- Work with you to come up with a great plan (itinerary)
- And give you the Professional Help you need
Destinations to Travel is the best Disney World travel service I know. I highly recommend them to everyone. Drop them a line today.
Dad's Bottom Line
Avoiding Walt Disney World crowds all comes down to common sense. Plan your park time for times when other guests are not in the park, learn to zig when they zag, use the tools Disney provides.
That's it. Dad's 10 easy peazy tips to avoid Walt Disney World crowds!