I am not going to lie, Disney is not the happiest place on earth for me. It is probably becuase I grew up in Orlando and every school field trip and major event in my life (even prom) was held at one theme park or another. Of course, there are plenty of locals who love Disney (like my family), I just somehow did not get this gene. I wouldn't say I hate Disney, per se, but it's not my favorite way to spend a day. I don't particularly care for long lines, crowded spaces, traffic, and price gouging, all which Disney has in spades. I know, I know, I sound like a negative Nancy and completely ungrateful of a childhood full of theme parks.
Over the years I have developed ways to cope with the Disney experience, becuase inevitably my family will want to go (and I love them) or a good friend like Jess will visit (who loves Disney) and want to go. I usually acquiesce and make the best out of it (except in Paris, that is where I draw the line lol). I cannot be the only one out there who isn't crazy for Disney... right?
In the hopes that I am not the only Scrooge out there, I am sharing my tricks for making the best of you Disney experience if aggravating line, crowds, and traffic (the price tag is unfortunately non negotiable) also drive you nuts.
Get an Early Start
First things first, you want to get an early start. The parks open even earlier than posted online (you can get into the Magic Kingdom at 8:00 am). Getting there early beats the traffic (if your driving) and the crowds. You can enjoy a nice coffee or breakfast before you have to deal with hoards of tourists.
Eat of Hours and Make Reservations
Speaking of getting an early start, eating off hours is a great way to ensure you can get into to your restaurant of choice. It is always always wise to make reservations.
Make a Disney Account and Use the App
The easiest way to make a reservation is with a My Disney Experience account and app. It is definitely worth registering for, since you can plan your visit, book accommodations, reserve restaurants, activate your magic band, manage payments, and reserve Fastpasses.
Make the Most of Your Fastpasses
Contrary to popular belief, you get three Fastpasses at a time, not per day. That means as soon you use your third Fastpass, get back on your app and make more reservations. If you are unfamiliar with Fastpasses, they are reservations for rides that give you priority (basically with little to no wait). If you are staying on property (i.e. at a Disney hotel) you can reserve 60 days in advance. If you're local or not staying on property, you can only make reservations 30 days in advance. Trust me, Fastpasses are essential to enjoying yourself. Without them, the rides are not worth it for me (especially at Disney).
Watch The Fireworks From the Parking Lot
Disney puts on a great fireworks display every evening. But if you are not staying on property, waiting for the show means dealing with crowds and traffic all trying to exit the park at the same time. If you want to see the show but avoid traffic, watch the show from the parking lot! Take the ferry across the lake to the entrance to the parking lot at the Polynesian Resort (the Transport and Ticket center on the map). It's a great vantage point and you can still beat the traffic.
I love any excuse to dress up (perfect example here), so when Jess offered to outfit me in some ears and bag swag, I just went for it. Turns out it definitely adds to the experience and was probably my favorite part of the day (my ears are from Wish Upon a Wire). Unbeknownst to me, there is an entire world out there of Disney inspired ears, bags, jewelry, and apparel. I have linked some of my favorites below and be sure to check out Jess's shop here.
Finally, Disney is cheapest and best enjoyed off season. February has always been the preferred month for Floridians. I don't know why they call it off season, Florida doesn't really have seasons and weather wise winter is delightful. My advice is to aim for anything between New Year's and March.
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Oh and P.S. Epcot serves the most alcohol... just saying!