Beating the Crowds

I recently had a friend take his young family on their first vacation to Disney World.  They had a miserable time.  Why?

It was crowded, hot, and the lines were ridiculous!  For many people, the idea of a wonderful vacation isn’t being crammed into a hot theme park and waiting in lines all day.  In part one of our “Beating the Crowds” series, we will try and help you avoid that fate.

Experienced Disney World vets have a great time touring the parks at any point during the year.  If you don’t consider yourself an experienced WDW guest, read along over the next few pages!  The free tips we provide will allow you to tour like a veteran!

Want a real secret?  Most people go to Disney World and do the same thing!  They arrive at the park at the same time, follow similar paths through the park, eat lunches at the same time, and leave at the same time!  You need to learn to do the exact opposite of what the “crowd” is doing.

Let’s look at THE most important factor for staying ahead of the crowds.
Beating the Crowds

Arriving Early!

While on vacation, most people love to relax.  That doesn’t involve cracking the whip at 6am, getting the family out of bed, getting breakfast, and high-tailing it to the park!  That usually means sleeping in until 7-8, going down to the resort dining area, standing in line with everyone else to get breakfast, and then finally arriving at the park at around 10-11.    This strategy is GREAT when you are at the beach!  But at Disney World, your’re in trouble before your day has even started!

The key to beating the crowds at Disney World is arriving early.  The earlier you arrive, the more you will get to do.  Would you rather conquer all of Fantasy Land in an hour and a half, or wait 30-40 minutes for EACH ride!   You can ride Space Mountain twice in 30 minutes…OR you can spend 90 minutes waiting in line for this ride!  You know which attractions are personal or family favorites.  Are you wanting to test out the new Mine Train ride?  Does your family love Splash Mountain as much as mine does? Getting there before the gates open will allow you to knock out those attractions very early, and get through a large portion of the park before lunch time.

We highly recommend arriving at the park 45 minutes before the park opens.  Usually the parks open at 9am.  Arrive at the front gates no later than 8:15 and you will have an advantage over the vast majority of guests.

Now if you wake up early and rush to the park, you may have to skip breakfast at the resort or hotel.  We highly recommend bringing some light breakfast foods with you, to help you bide your time while you wait for an early lunch.  You can even order granola bars and bottled waters online, and have them shipped to your resort.  This can save time and money!


Lunch Time

It’s essential that you eat early if you don’t want to waste an hour and a half in a crowded restaurant.  To make this happen, I suggest that you do a couple things.

First of all, know the eating habits of your family.  If your family is used to eating at 12-12:30, perhaps you want to have a very light breakfast.  We want to eat lunch at a time that almost feels unnaturally early to many.  10:45-11 is the optimal time.  Most people are just getting to the parks at this point, but you will have already knocked out 5-8 rides and lunch!

If you’ve done things right, you’ve knocked out a good portion of the theme park by lunchtime.   Now what?  At the very minimum you want to try and knock out another couple hours at the park. If you’ve used the FASTPASS plus system correctly, you are ahead of the game right now.  Leaving the park now ruins all your hard work.  But your schedule for the remainder of the day depends on a number of factors.  Let’s go through a few things that might play into your decision-making process:

Small Children:  If you have small children, they probably need naps.  Try and squeeze another 2 hours out of them after your early lunch and leave around 1-1:30.  If you have a long trip and you try and overload your kids the first few days, they probably won’t argue, as who wants to leave Disney World?  But you may pay for it later with exhausted and cranky kids.

Length of stay:  How long is your vacation?  Will you be returning to this particular park again?  If you only have one day to do Magic Kingdom, then it’s probably best to push through and try and finish everything.
How late is the park open?  If the park is open late, than you can possibly afford a few hours to nap.  During the peak season, parks stay open late every night.  This allows you to leave during the heat of the day and return in the evenings when its cooler.

While your daily schedule is important, in Part 2 of our “Beating the Crowds” series, we will show you how the FASTPASS system can be used to ensure that you stay ahead of the game.

 Go to part 2:

Fastpass Tips


Part 5 — Disney Transportation

Disney transportation can be both a highlight and a cause of immense frustration during your time at Disney World.   The unique ability to get picked up at the airport and shuttled all around the entire complex, FREE OF CHARGE, is something that brings people back year after year.   However long lines for busses, heat,… Read More

Part 4 — Eating at Disney World

  For many adults, one of the most anticipated events of their vacation is eating at Disney World!  The Walt Disney World resort is home to fine dining restaurants of almost any kind of food you can imagine!  While this can add much enjoyment to the trip, there are a few things you need to… Read More

Part 3 — Disney Park Schedule

So far, you’ve learned two important factors that will enable you to have a great time even in the busiest of seasons.  A third way to beat the crowds is by knowing which days to go to which parks and having a schedule that you have made based on crowd levels.  There are many considerations… Read More

Part 2 — Fastpass Tips

Thunder Mountain Faspass Tips

A few years ago, Disney World transitioned from their old Fastpass system that included paper tickets, to the new Fastpass plus system that includes Magic Bands and online Fastpass booking using the My Disney Experience app.  Both on our website and in the parks, we have met many people who are very frustrated with the new… Read More

4 comments on “Beating the Crowds

  • We always have planned our Disney trips in October or around Thanksgiving and the crowds are always lighter and weather at least a little cooler and have a wonderful time and never wait that long for rides. Also you get to do the Halloween party in October and the ride lines are nearly non existent during the party. This year making two trips and one made the mistake of going in mid June. Never again way to hot way to crowded and even our normal game plan of eating early did no good.We will stick to Fall or we are considering trying a February trip.If you have kids I know it may be difficult

    • I agree Preston. I am a Disney nut, but mid-June is a time period you will rarely find me at Disney. I’m not a fan of the intense heat and the crowds + heat are a tough one-two punch.

      If you are going during that time period, though, I’d highly recommend getting there really early, taking naps in the day, and then coming back at night.

    • i was there on february is the best time, a little chill and no giant crowds! What time of october or november is the best?

      • October is a great month. In reality, the entire month of October and November, until Thanksgiving week, is pretty great. October is still going to be pretty warm. Early October has the Food & Wine festival, which is a ton of fun! Earl October is our favorite time of the year to go for sure.

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