When traveling to Walt Disney World, you will quickly realize there is just never enough time to see and do everything. A plan to Save Time at Disney may not seem as important as saving money- but it is. Though, of course, we do focus on Saving Money at Disney World too. Things like how long you wait for, and ride on the Disney buses, or wait in ride lines can really cut into the fun things you have in your Disney Day Plans. Add in things like waiting for the parade to start, and standing in the gift shop line, and you’ll wonder what you actually did on your Disney vacation. We’re here to share that making the most of your time at Disney World is possible!
Whether this is your only Disney trip and you want to maximize it, or just an annual trip that you wish was longer, we’ll share some tips about how you can save time, rather than waste time, on your next Disney Vacation. That way you can make the most of whatever time you have.
How to Save Time on Your Disney Vacation
Regardless of whether you’re a Florida local, a Disney Annual Passholder, or a first-time visitor, you’ll want to make sure you’re not wasting time on unnecessary stuff. Things like standing in lines and not knowing how MagicBands+ work can make or break your trip! We see a lot of guests making these same time-costing mistakes when we are traveling to Walt Disney World and wanted to share our tips to help you save time, so you don’t make these mistakes too.
Disney Resort Online Check-In
One of the many things you can do in the My Disney Experience App, Disney Resort Online Check-in is one of the BEST ways to save time before your vacation even starts! While there are definitely some perks to checking in at the desk, if you’re on a time crunch or just not a “line person”, be sure to check into your Disney Resort online. You can generally skip the front desk entirely. You can do this starting 30 days before your trip. Have a credit card linked to your Disney account for incidentals as well as your cell phone number.
When you get to the resort, you can skip the line and go straight to the Parks or straight to your room if it’s ready. You’ll receive a text when your room is ready and you’ll be able to go straight to your room. Just open your resort door with your MagicBand+ or Unlock Your Room with the My Disney Experience App. It’s like magic!
Become a Pro with the My Disney Experience App
One of the best ways to save time at Walt Disney World is simply to use the tools at your disposal. We’ve rounded up 14 Things You Can Do in the My Disney Experience App and many of them save you TIME! But one of the best things about the app is that if you have all of the people in your travel party connected via Friends and Family, the world opens up for you! Because then just one person can make groupwide actions, like getting everyone Virtual Queue Boarding Passes or Choosing your next Lightning Lane Ride on Disney Genie+.
Have Tickets, Passes, and Special Event Tickets BEFORE You Get to the Parks
You can buy Disney tickets on the website or right in the app, so why wait in line to get them? Simply grab them online, connect your fellow travelers to your account through Freinds and Family, and you’ll be ready to scan in with the best of them, without waiting in line.
Mobile Order at Quick Serve Restaurants
Quite possibly the easiest, yet most overlooked, way to save time at Disney is to mobile order your food at Disney! Not sure how it works? No problem, we have you covered here. While not all quick-serve restaurants have mobile orders, many do. Simply open your My Disney Experience App and select Order Food. You’ll be able to see which restaurants nearby offer Mobile Order and you can place your order when ready. Be sure to have a credit card on file in your Disney Account for easy ordering. Or you can type in your Disney gift card number and pay for your food that way.
We love this option for busy days in the parks, and since you choose your mobile order pick-up time, you can usually even order ahead. That way, when the busy lunch hour rush hits, you can simply order your food and pick it up at the Mobile Order window at whichever restaurant you’ve ordered from.
Book Your Dining Reservations at the 60-day Mark
Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World can be made up to 60 days in advance of your vacation. And the best restaurants tend to fill up fast. Trust us, when we say, making dining decisions ahead of time, is a great way to save time so you don’t have to stand around in the parks, on a hot day, discussing where to eat. While you may not want a table-service dining experience every day, be sure to schedule at least a few so you have a chance to sit down and relax at some point during your vacation.
Eat Outside of Regular Meal Times
One of our favorite ways to save time at Walt Disney World is to plan our meals at off-times. A 10 am breakfast, 2 pm Lunch, or 7 pm dinner are always less busy than the traditional mealtime hours. You get lower lines and less rushed service. And alternatively, can spend those times when everyone else is eating riding rides instead!
If you Have to Be Somewhere…Don’t Use Disney Transportation
Ok, I’m sure we’ll get some resistance on this one, but hear me out. Yes, we know Disney Transportation is free. But if time is money, then it’s a “free” perk that you’re way overpaying for. As nice as it is to know that you can take Disney’s transportation for free anywhere on the property, it’s a huge time suck.
We have waited over an hour just for buses to arrive, and that’s not including travel time or the oh-so-charming traffic that exists in Orlando, Florida. We have almost missed flights, and have missed dinner reservations, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments waiting on Disney transportation. And when the monorail breaks(which, let’s be honest guys, is A LOT) may the odds be in your favor because the rowdy crowds turn into a scene reminiscent of The Hunger Games.
If you’re not in a hurry, Disney transportation will be just fine. But if you’re trying to save time, we recommend having a car or using a ride-share service, like Lyft, Uber, or the Minnie Vans. There are of course times when Disney Transportation is a time-saver, if the timing is right and the lines aren’t long.
Whether you’re entering the park, or on a ride with double lines ( this includes you Disney Skyliner) Go LEFT. An odd concept yes, but did you know that most people subconsciously always go right? To help you Save time at Disney World, be aware of the lines, and the direction people are headed. You’ll typically find fewer crowds and lower lines on the left.
Head to the Back of the Park
When you arrive, if it’s anywhere near opening time, just head to the back of the park. It doesn’t matter which park. Just know that as people enter any park, they typically check rides on the way in, looking for shorter lines. As such we recommend heading straight for the back of the park instead and working your way up. The back of the park will naturally be emptier and you’ll get a chance at some of the best rides, that will surely have long lines later.
Have a Good Disney Ride Strategy
If you’re hoping to get in all the rides on your trip, be sure to have a legit Disney Rides strategy. Rope Dropping popular rides just means waking up early and being at the park before it opens so that when the rope drops, you can race to walk to your chosen attraction. It’s better than standing in line for more than an hour and a great way to save some money on Lightning Lane passes.
Of course, since so many people are typically rope-dropping the popular rides, we also like parade and meal times as low-line times to try. Check out all our BEST Disney Ride Strategies so you don’t have to wait in line all day. And be sure to have the My Disney Experience App on your phone so that you can access Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ for Lightning Lane Passes to purchase. You can also check ride times on the map in the app, to keep tabs on when your favorite rides have low wait times.
Use Genie+ Lightning Lane
While we wouldn’t typically recommend getting Genie+ every day throughout your vacation, there will be a day when you realize you really need it. Perhaps you’re tackling Magic Kingdom on a Saturday or EPCOT on a Friday and just realized how many people visit the parks on those days. Whatever the reason, grab Genie+ on a day when you know you’ll have 2-3 really popular rides on your list, so you don’t stand in line longer than you need to.
Make your Lightning Lane Priorities TOP PICKS in Genie+
Save Time when it comes to getting as many rides as possible on Genie+. If you’ve purchased Disney Genie+ for the day, be sure to mark the most important rides as your “Top Picks”. As the Disney Genie+ Tip Board places those rides at the top of the ride list, you’ll be able to see new lightning lane times for your favorite rides first, instead of having to scroll through the list. Just check and refresh the Tip Board to see available timeslots.
Use Virtual Queue
When Disney World rides require a virtual queue, walk-on may not be an option, making your only competition the folks with lightning lane passes. As such rides like Guardians of the Galaxy and TRON simply go faster with a virtual queue line. Be sure to grab your boarding passes as soon as they drop at 7 am ( for Disney Resort Guests), 9 am ( all other guests) 1 pm (all guests), and 6 pm ( Disney Deluxe Resort Guests). this helps you nail down your timeslot for an important ride and frees up the rest of your time for getting everything else in. Read all our tips about Getting a Virtual Queue Boarding Pass at Walt Disney World.
Single Rider Lines and Rider Swap
If you’re hoping to tackle as many rides as possible, check out the single-rider lines at your top rides. Often much shorter, as long as you don’t mind being separated from your travel party, this is a great way to get out of waiting in long lines.
And if you have small children, be sure to ask the ride cast member about rider swap, giving both adults the chance to ride the ride in turns, while the other waits with the child/ children.
Get in Line Just Before Closing
While this isn’t always the best strategy, you can judge at the moment if it works for your situation. This way to Save Time at Disney is all about timing. simply head to a popular ride close to closing time. As Disney policy states that guests in line when the park close still get to ride the ride, as long as you’re in line, you’re golden. And since late-night lines are often shorter, to begin with, it’s a great way to get one last ride in if you were unable to ride something earlier.
Try Early Theme Park Entry
Early Theme Park Entry for Disney Resort Guests can be both a godsend and a nightmare. It all depends on how much time you want to save, and how good you are at getting up early. And we mean early. Early Theme Park entry for Disney Resort Guests allows you to get into the park 30 minutes before anyone else. This only really works, if you are at the front of the line gates and plan on running to your goal attraction. Because otherwise you just got up extra early to stand behind the hoards of people at the gates for that same reason, and then wait 45 minutes in a line that will be 30 minutes later in the afternoon. If you’re going to try this, we say, be at the gates at least 30 minutes before the 30 minutes…extra early.
Or Extended Evening Hours
A better option offered to Disney Deluxe Resort Guests is Extended Evening Hours. While we don’t love the idea of having to stay up extra late if you’re hoping to really maximize your Disney trip, then this may be the ticket. Mainly because, while this is a great perk, it’s not heavily used. Meaning that when EPCOT closes at 9 pm, you can easily find yourself riding Guardians of the Galaxy via virtual queue at 9:30, if you got the boarding passes available to you at 6 pm. A great way to save time by not waiting an hour for a ride earlier in the day.
The Haunted Mansion Tightrope Walker
Raise your hand if you absolutely HATE the Haunted Mansion boarding queue at Walt Disney World. Who doesn’t? Besides being every claustrophobe’s worst nightmare, it’s a downright unsafe way to get people from the elevator to the doom buggies. Because, really, if you got through kindergarten you know you shouldn’t push and shove, and yet, it’s the only thing saving you from a stampede. That said, we recommend just standing underneath the picture of the Tightrope Walker in the HM elevator. That way, as the door opens, you’ll have the best shot at being at the front of the line, and may still have everyone in your travel party with you, when you finally get into the doom buggy. As an alternative, we also recommend just waiting until the elevator empties and hanging at the back of the line. The latter doesn’t save you time, but it may save you some anxiety.
Use Mobile Checkout at the Gift Shops
Did you know you can use Mobile Checkout at Disney World Giftshops? This service involves you choosing your items, scanning the QR code to purchase, and completing checkout on your phone! You can then bag your items at any of the Mobile Checkout Kiosks. We love this for its convenience and contactless payment options.
Shop When the Park is Closing
As everyone races to the buses, meander to the gift shops instead. This time-saving trick gives you the chance to see the merchandise instead of just the crowds and can help maximize your gift shop time. However, be sure to be respectful that at some point the cast members do have to go home and save this strategy for times when you know you’re ready to buy whatever goodies you saw earlier on your trip.
Use the Resort Monorail Instead
If you’ve parked at the Disney Transportation and Ticket Center, skip the main Monorail. You’ll notice it because the line is usually all the way down the sidewalk. The Resort Monorail, however, takes you to the same place and the line is ALWAYS much shorter. While the Resort Monorail does stop first at the Contemporary, this short pause is well worth it, since the second stop is the TTC. So, you’ll be on your way to your car in no time. We most love this Disney Time Saving Tip for weekend or party nights at Magic Kingdom when crowds are the worst.
Take the Skyliner
While the Skyliner tends to be a leisurely ride in the sky, you can use it to easily park hop from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios. While we love the walking path for this task too, it does typically take about 20 minutes to walk from Hollywood Studios, through the Boardwalk to EPCOT. And the boat is still a little slower than the Skyliner. For the fastest connection between parks, the Slyliner is best.
Maximize Your Mornings
If you find you, your children, or fellow travelers have issues getting up and at ’em, then here are some Disney Time Saving Tips that can really help you maximize your day.
- Know what you’re wearing each day. If you’ve unpacked your suitcase then you can organize outfits in drawers or the closet. Or if you’re just living out of a suitcase for the next couple of days tossing children’s outfits in separate gallon ziplock bags or separating them in the suitcase is also helpful.
- Have a breakfast plan. If you’re heading to the parks to ride rides first thing, have granola bars at the ready so that you can snack while you get ready.
- Know your Disney Resort Bus Schedule. If you’re grabbing the bus you can check the Resort section in the My Disney Experience App for bus arrival times. That way you can see the times your park bus generally arrives and make a plan to be at the bus stop without the long wait.
Don’t Bring a Disney Day Bag To The Parks
When Disney gets busy, you can count on long bag check lines. Add in large strollers, guests who aren’t quite sure how the process works, and large backpacks with 3 days worth of outfits and you could be waiting a very long time just to get through security. If you’re daring, don’t bring a bag at all and bypass the bag check lines. The “guests without bags” line is always shorter, moves very quickly, and will save you a ton of time when getting into the Parks. Check out everything you really need in your Disney Park Day Bag.
…or bring a smaller Disney Day Bag
Ok, so we know completely that forgoing a day bag can be quite the challenge, especially if you’re toting little ones or if you have a long day planned. But you can still save time by being smart about the bag check process. Arriving early is always our number one tip for Disney, and if you can beat the crowds to the Parks, bag check won’t be such a bear to tackle.
Bringing a smaller bag, or even a clear bag into the Parks can help you get through security quicker and save you a ton of time. Be aware that certain things made of metal ( like cameras, battery packs, and chargers) will always set off the alarms and you’ll be shown the security table for the bag check. Do yourself a favor by limiting these things, or holding them out in front of you as you walk through the security gate.
Save time at EPCOT Festivals
One of our favorite things about any Walt Disney World Trip is visiting the festival at EPCOT Park. BUT, they can get horribly busy, and a huge waste of time if you’re waiting in booth lines all day. Our tip? Be in EPCOT before the booths open to tackle rides and grab breakfast. That way at 11:00 am when the food booths open, you can begin your foodie journey across the park. We recommend you never stay at an EPCOT festival past 3 or 4 pm, as the locals come out, and the lines typically become unbearable.
Stay at the Right Resorts
If you’re really looking to Save Time at Disney then some advanced planning skills could be useful. Figure out your game plan for your visit, and choose the resort that gives you the best access to what you need. There are many Disney Resorts within Walking Distance of Walt Disney World Parks. Save Time on an EPCOT Festival Vacation by choosing a Disney Boardwalk Resort. Or if you’re visiting for the Halloween Party, choose a monorail resort, or one close to Magic Kingdom. Being able to save time at Disney by choosing resorts with the best transportation options often makes all the difference.
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .