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How to survive the crowds at the Walt Disney World® Resort

I recently booked a family traveling to Disney World during Spring Break week which also happened to be the week prior to Easter.  According to my sources the crowds were going to be crazy that week.  So, what do you do?  If you must go, then you need to be prepared.

Here are a few tips to help in your planning:

  • Decide what is more important to your group; sleeping in or riding rides.  If your idea of a vacation is sleeping in then you need to be prepared to wait in line or choose less popular attractions.  Those who want to see the big headliner attractions will need to get up early and be at the park at least 30 minutes prior to park opening.  One perk of being one of the first in the parks is an unobstructed view of your family and Cinderella’s Castle (or Tree of Life, etc.).

Very foggy morning in January.

  • You will need a plan.   I suggest getting a touring plan.  One of the perks of booking through me at McAlpin Travel is that I set up each client with their own personalized touring plan.  This maps out which parks they should visit each day based on crowd levels and then goes a step farther by listing in order the attractions they should visit.  It’s all based on an app you can access via your smart phone and can be updated throughout the day.  This allows you to be flexible in case a ride breaks down, someone needs a potty break, or you can’t pass up getting a Dole whip.
  • Be prepared to eat at off times during the day.  Since you’re probably getting to the park each morning at the crack of dawn and only ate a Pop Tart while running to catch the first bus of the morning you will be hungry for lunch at 10:30.  Don’t wait for the lunch crowd to arrive or else you could easily spend an hour or more just eating a quick service meal.  If you’re scheduling character meals or a table service meal choose one of the last seatings for breakfast.  The food will be fresh, the crowds from breakfast should be dwindling and you will be done and back to the rides by the time everyone else is looking for a place to eat.  This goes for dinner too!  Eat around 4:30 and then you will be hungry enough for a Mickey bar or Dole Whip while you wait for the evening fireworks and parades to start.
  • Find less popular attractions. If you do want to sleep in or don’t get a chance to ride the headliner attractions early in the morning then you will need to find less popular attractions.  At the Magic Kingdom this includes the People Mover, Carousel of Progress, Enchanted Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, and the Country Bear Jamboree.  Epcot gives you the chance to see films and exhibits from other countries as well as Living with the Land (great to visit this attraction while you wait for your Fast Pass return time for Soarin).  Animal Kingdom will rarely have a wait for Finding Nemo musical or Lion King, Tough to be a Bug, and the various animal attractions.  Hollywood Studios has fewer options but there is so much “streetmosphere” that you can spend a long time walking around just soaking it in.
  • Utilize the Fast Pass (FP) system.  In order to have your best shot of standing in line the least amount of time you will need to get Fast Passes. There are changes going on in the parks concerning this but for now it’s relatively simple.  If you have an app on your phone either from Disney or the one I will provide you then you will know what the current return times are without having to go to the ride itself.  Once you put your park ticket in the machine (don’t forget to get it back!) then you will receive a paper ticket with your return window and the time you are eligible for another FP.  The general rule is that if the wait is less than 30 minutes, don’t get a FP.  Just wait it out.  These return windows are being enforced so don’t think that you can save up your FP all day and use them whenever you want or try to go early.
  • Take a break during the day.  I can’t stress how important this is, especially if you have small children.  Assuming you are at the parks at opening I suggest leaving the park for at least 2-3 hours in the afternoon.  You don’t have to sleep unless you just want to but you need to do something other than attractions.  This could mean checking out other hotels, riding the monorail loop a few times, swimming at the hotel (pools are heated year-round and I have been swimming comfortably in January), shopping or taking a shower and feeling clean again (can’t stress this enough during the summer!).  Then you can come back to the parks, eat a little dinner and continue where you left off.  During peak times the parks are sometimes open for up to 20 hours a day so there’s definitely time to recharge your batteries during the day.

My client came home after a successful, but very crowded Spring Break trip and was pleased with my advice.  She and her daughter were in the parks some days before the sun came up and were able to ride some of the most popular rides several times in a row.  Afternoons were spent napping in the hotel room so they could recharge their batteries.

A Disney World vacation is always a good idea even during the busy seasons but you need to know what to expect and be sure to follow the suggestions listed above.  For more information please contact me directly at karen@McAlpinTravel.com.

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