23 Sanity-Saving Hacks For 1 Day At Disney World

Southeast, USA By

Disney World is expensive. And it takes time. With a 5 & 7-year-old in tow I just could not comprehend 5 days visiting 4 different parks. Was I doing them a disservice by not taking them? Was I spoiling their childhood?

Turns out one day at Disney still made me the best mum in the world

Inside tip: Save up to $40 on Disney World tickets by buying them from this website.

We first took the kids to Disneyland in Hong Kong in 2012. It was terrible, coinciding with swarming Chinese children on school holidays. We then took them to Disneyland in Anaheim for 3 days in 2013. It was magical, yet exhausting. How would I face 5 days?

The answer? I wouldn’t.

I decided to stop putting so much pressure on our family and we decided to just do one day. Disney invited us to try Magic Kingdom in Florida. So with my sister along for the ride we got up early one morning and made our way to the theme park that needs no introduction.

Numerous articles will help you plan your trip to Disney in intricate detail, so I am not going to reinvent those for you today. Instead I am simply going to give you my 23 best hacks for a fun family day at Disney World.

1. 3 FastPass rides are included for free with your entry ticket. Once you have used all 3 you can book one more at the kiosks in the park. Once that is finished you can get another. There are many websites that will help you decide which rides to use your FastPass on. 

FastPass already activated on our entry tickets

My tip, however, is for families. We had 4 people in our group so we booked 3 different FastPasses between Mia and myself and then Josh and Caius. The point? You can use a child swap to get the other people onto the same ride. Scored! While we had all intention of using the child swap, the Disney staff were not vigilant checking the FastPass and every single ride we used we got all of us on without having to let the other 2 members wait. We even managed to go on some rides twice, because they let us all on and gave us the child swap as well!

I highly recommend trying to get the Seven Dwarfs FastPass. If you can’t get it for the whole family, keep lowering the number of people until you get one. Even one is better than none and attempt to all go in if you are a little cheeky. 

Skip the queue with FastPass

2. If it’s your first time, grab a badge from guest services. You can also get a free badge if it’s your birthday. Across the park staff spend the whole day pointing it out and welcoming you… Perhaps this is why they also just waved us through the FastPass all together Smile

1st visit badge
Guest Services building near entrance

3. To use your time wisely - visit an ice cream or soda stall and enjoy your treat while queuing for a ride. Chances are you’ll be done before reaching the front of the queue.

4. Josh could not fit on the Space Mountain indoor roller coaster in Anaheim, even though we tried several seats. But even Shaq has been on Space Mountain in Orlando so Josh didn’t get out of it this time. 

Space Mountain

5. Bring your own lunch and just buy a treat. Disney World tickets are expensive and Disney food is expensive. A cup of popcorn is $8, a hot dog is $7.40. They do allow you to bring your own food and drink into the park. We brought bread and tuna to make our own sandwiches, as well as veggies and dip, cookies, chips and all sorts of snacks. The only thing we ended up buying was an ice cream sundae in the heat of the day. 

Veggies with dip… yum!

6. As the song says, wear sunscreen. It gets hot all year round and a lot of the time you are outdoors without shade.

7. Bring a refillable water bottle. Disney World is dotted with water fountains. Forget bringing several bottles for everyone. We used two large bottles between 4 of us to lighten the load and just refilled regularly.

8. Buy your merchandise at Walmart or a local gift store before you get to Disney World. Who is going to know? All of us wore Disney shirts that we picked up for between $6 and $12 from Walmart. We even bought Mickey ears and other items too.

9. Pick up a poncho ($1 - $4) for the “wet” rides and any possible rain (even if it’s not forecasted). Compared to the $12 park ponchos, it pays to be prepared.

10. Parking is $20 per day. The parking lot is huge so be prepared to arrive early and allow time to walk. It takes at least 30 minutes from the parking lot to the front ticket booths. You can jump onto a tram if you are too far back in the parking lot. 

11. Check the park opening and closing times in advance. These change on a daily basis, depending on demand. So double-check the night before on the Disney website.

12. Arrive at the entry gates at least 20 minutes before opening time to see a live show. Your kids will love it!

13. Tour plans are awesome. My favourite were from here and here. We used the one-day tour plan and quite accurately we were able to complete a full day at Magic Kingdom as recommended.

14. Use the Undercover Tourist calendar. Some people don’t have the luxury of choosing the dates that you take a vacation, but if you do, use it! We chose not only a day that was in the green (good) zone, but a day Magic Kingdom was in that zone. Avoid red days at all costs. We visited the week before Spring Break and still found the queues quite reasonable. 

15. All restaurants offer complimentary utensils and condiments so lighten your backpack and don’t worry about bringing that stuff. A number of benches and tables can be found around the park, perfect for enjoying your picnic lunch.

16. Speaking of lunch, don’t ride the spinning teacups straight after lunch. Bad idea. Take my word for it.

17. Use the free mobile app (iOS and Android) – and download it in advance. You can avoid long queues by checking waiting times in real-time - one of my favourite features. It also shows your current FastPasses and a calendar of events and shows throughout the day.

18.  So you have the free mobile app, awesome! But what if your phone goes flat? Take a print out of your day plan, just in case. Believe me… it happens.

19. On that note don’t forget your powerbank and USB cable to recharge your phone.

20. Attach a caribena or two (also called a “carbine”) to your backpack. You can hang a plastic bag of wet clothes off it or a souvenir bucket of popcorn for easy access.

21. Bring a few first aid items like Band-Aids for blisters and aspirin for headaches. Not only will this help you not waste time on your precious vacation, but save you money on simple things that can be quite expensive within the park.

22. Arrive at least 30 minutes early to Disney’s Electrical Parade in the evening. This is one of the busiest times of the day. If you can grab a couple square feet of space on the “island” in front of the castle, you’ll get the best views (and photos).

Best seating spot on left side of this photo

23. Most of all, have fun! This is a family vacation your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. So relax, and forget about how much you’ve spent. Don’t let your desire for perfection get in the way of a good time. Remember, dreams do come true in the Magic Kingdom.

Inside tip: Save up to $40 on Disney World tickets by buying them from this website.

Find a hotel for your stay! 

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

Wow, this is indeed a fun family vacation! Thank you for these hacks, Disney is indeed a land of fantasy and they know how to charge you for that (especially when you're with children). Love the pictures, looks like you had a lot of fun.

John Apr 27th, 2016

I like your cheeky fast pass tip ;) My cheeky parking tip is don't pay $20! Park at a hotel and ride the monorail over or a bus. For magic kingdom, it is actually faster and FREE but for other parks such as Animal Kingdom it may take a bit longer. Just depends on how bad you want to save $20 ;)

Victoria Yore Aug 21st, 2016

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