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10 Disney World Hacks Every First Timer Needs to Know

Holy cow! This is going to change our Disney trip! These are some of the most helpful tips I've seen on Pinterest yet! #Disneyworldtips #disneyworld #disneyworldsecrets #disneyvacation #disneyplanning

Holy cow! This is going to change our Disney trip! These are some of the most helpful tips I've seen on Pinterest yet! #Disneyworldtips #disneyworld #disneyworldsecrets #disneyvacation #disneyplanning

Holy cow! This is going to change our Disney trip! These are some of the most helpful tips I've seen on Pinterest yet! #Disneyworldtips #disneyworld #disneyworldsecrets #disneyvacation #disneyplanning

Holy cow! This is going to change our Disney trip! These are some of the most helpful tips I've seen on Pinterest yet! #Disneyworldtips #disneyworld #disneyworldsecrets #disneyvacation #disneyplanning

My husband and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s move to Disney World.”

It’s a little weird, I know. But our kids were the perfect age, we both have online businesses, and what would be more magical than living so close to the Magic Kingdom that you could see the fireworks every single night?

Not a whole lot. So we did it.

. . .

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. . .

It took us about a year to get there but it was worth every single struggle, tear, and triumph. The entire Disney World Property became our playground. We spent nearly every moment we could soaking in each and every detail.

Our dream lasted for 2 years so you can imagine the amount of Disney World knowledge our little heads contain. (a lot.) It brings me such joy to share it with you.

So here you go…10 Disney World Hacks us locals know – and you need to – if you ever plan on visiting/revisiting one pretty fantastic place…

Hack 1:

When everyone is headed out of the parks due to rain…you head in.

A typical Florida rainstorm lasts anywhere between 20-40 minutes so don’t assume your whole day is a wash. Wait it out in the parks. And while you’re waiting it out, the park will clear out because most people don’t realize the weather will change so quickly.

Disney World road signs in rainy weather

Be aware that a Florida rain can come on FAST and STRONG.

You can be soaked to your bones in a matter of seconds. So if rain is on the forecast come prepared with rain ponchos (bought at the Dollar Store before you go so that you don’t spend a fortune on them in the parks), and/or umbrellas.

If you will be pushing a stroller, don’t forget an extra rain poncho or covering to put over the stroller. I learned the hard way when I found our stroller completely soaked with a puddle on the seat when we came out from riding a ride during a rainstorm.

girl jumping in rain puddle in Hollywood Studios Disney World

While you’re waiting it out, take advantage of some of the inside rides and attractions. Some of our family’s favorites (that typically have no lines!) are…

MAGIC KINGDOM: Carousel of Progress, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Hall of Presidents, and It’s a Small World.

EPCOT: Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo & Friends (After the ride you can stay inside the gigantic building checking out the huge aquarium and visiting the attraction, “Turtle Talk with Crush”), The Lands Pavilion where you can ride Soarin’ and Living with the Lands. (There is also a great place to eat in there called Sunshine Terrace.), and Innovations which is a huge building with several hands-on attractions. Think: Disney Children’s Museum.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: Star Wars Launch Bay, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, and Frozen Sing-a-long.

short line time for Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios

Lines get nice and short on rainy days too!

ANIMAL KINGDOM: Much of Animal Kingdom is outside but there are 3 shows that are all inside a theater; Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo-The Musical, and It’s Tough to be a Bug. (Festival of the Lion King is by far my favorite out of these 3.)

Hack 2:

Get free ice water at all the parks!

You can order a cup of ice water wherever fountain drinks are served and it’s totally free. I normally never lug a water bottle around and instead stop and get a cold fresh ice water.

Hack 3:

When the park officially closes it’s not totally closed.

Let’s say the park closes at 10 pm, that means your ability to get in line for a ride stops at 10 pm. However, the entire park does not close down. So this means a couple of things; first, if there is a ride that has a really long line, getting on at the very last minute before the park closes tends to be a good time to get on with a much shorter wait time.

The other thing this means is that The shops on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood Studios stay open 30-60 minutes after the official closing time so you can souvenir shop and browse.

Shopping during this time also allows the crowds to thin out for your trek back to your car or getting on Disney Transportation. I don’t know about you but packing myself on the monorail like a sardine is not my idea of the perfect end to a magical day.

I also like staying after the park closes in the Magic Kingdom for a couple of reasons…first, it’s cool to see Magic Kingdom practically empty. It’s rare to ever see Main street USA deserted but this is one of those times.

Empty park at nighttime in the Magic Kingdom

And second, 30-60 minutes AFTER the park officially closes, they have a little castle show called, A Kiss Goodnight.

It’s Disney’s way of saying goodnight and it brings a tear to my eye almost every time I see it. It’s such a sweet way to close out your magical day at one of the most magical places on earth.

Disney World castle down main street at nighttime

This show is not posted anywhere nor do they do it at the same time every night. In fact, the cast members don’t really give you much information about it even if you ask! You just have to wait around for it.

Hack 4:

Schedule FastPasses as early as you are able! (If you know nothing about FastPasses check this out.)

When you book a Disney hotel you can schedule your FastPasses as far as 60 days in advance. For the rest of us peasants, we can schedule FastPasses up to 30 days in advance. Why is this so important? You can guarantee yourself passage to the attractions that tend to have terribly long lines, without waiting in line whatsoever. (hello?!)

small girl looking at map at Magic Kingdom in Disney World

I’ve met many people in the parks who had no idea about FastPasses until they arrived at the parks that day. AHHHHH! It pained me that they didn’t take advantage of something so valuable. Disney calls them “Priceless Perks” and I totally agree. I’ll get off my soapbox now…if…you get your FastPasses as early as possible!!!

Based on how popular the rides are, here are my suggestions for FastPasses in each park:

MAGIC KINGDOM: 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan (I’ve never figured out why this line is so darn long all the time because the ride is only so-so to me. So if you don’t want to do Peter Pan, the next Fast Pass to get would be Splash Mountain.)

EPCOT: Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: Toy Story Mania or Slinky Dog Dash, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror

ANIMAL KINGDOM: Avatar-Flight of Passage, Na’Vi River Journey, Expedition

These are all recommended based on how long the lines usually are. If you’re not a fan of roller coasters or if you’re going with young kids, your FastPasses will be different.

Because you are only able to schedule 3 Fast Passes per day at a time, try to schedule all 3 fast Passes as early in the day as you can. Because after you use your initial 3 FP’s you are able to make reservations for more fast passes that same day. (You can do this using your My Disney Experience App or at a kiosk in the park.)

Hack 5:

In the summer months, make good use of the nighttime hours.

If you’re not familiar with Florida in the summer (it feels like you’re visiting the surface of the sun) you will want to plan your day around the heat and humidity. (Check this out to know the best and worst times to visit Disney World.)

woman smiling in front of Disney World castle at night time.

Go to the parks first thing in the morning, take a nap in the afternoon, and then play for as long as you can when the sun goes down. The Magic Kingdom usually closes really late like 12 am and sometimes 1 am during the summer, so take advantage of that.

Dad holding daughter while watching fireworks at Magic Kingdom

Nighttime is the ONLY time I visit any of the parks in the summer. Yes, it really is that hot and uncomfortable to me. 😉

Hack 6:

Disney World is so much more than just the 4 parks…Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

The many resorts and Disney Springs are also so much fun and packed with plenty to do.

Whether you’re staying at the resorts or not, you’re allowed to park there, go in, and explore! Each resort has a security guard at the gate. Just let them know you’re there to check out the resort and maybe eat at one of the restaurants.

I’ve never been turned down before. Although at peak times (4th of July, Christmas) they may turn you away due to the fact that there are so many guests there.

At each resort they have numerous restaurant’s that you are totally welcome to eat at. You can go to go to the quick-serve restaurants at any time but you’ll most likely need reservations for the others. Just check with Disney’s dining guide here. Again, you do not have to be staying at the resort to eat at their restaurants.

small kids eating dinner on Disney's Boardwalk at nighttime

Eating at the Boardwalk Resort.

woman eating a sandwich on Disney's Boardwalk at nighttime

The BEST Sandwich ever at the Boardwalk Cafe.

Apart from eating at the resorts, we like to explore them…walk around to see what they have to offer! Each is designed in such a fun and unique way. As you’re exploring you can shop at the gift shops and play at the arcades. Each resort also has some kind of outdoor play area that my kids love.

young girl smiling while sliding down a slide at a playground

Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

young girl looking at a playground on a beach

Wilderness Lodge Resort

The Boardwalk Resort is one of our favorites. To get to the actual boardwalk, there are stairs that go down to it to the right of the entrance. You can also go in through the hotel to get to it as well.

family on the stairs going down to Disney's Boardwalk

The boardwalk has lots of fun Disney shops, a delicious bakery, a candy shop, and a beautiful art gallery where you will fall in love with some awesome Disney inspired pieces.

young girl sitting on a bench at Disney's Boardwalk

It comes alive at night with street performers and 2 dance halls.

And like all the other resorts, every night a different Disney movie is shown outside on a huge screen. You can sit out under the stars and enjoy a flick. We’ve spent many nights enjoying the resorts. And it’s all completely free!

crowd of people on Disney's Boardwalk at nighttime

The Boardwalk Resort at night.

performer balancing something on his head at nighttime

Performers on the Boardwalk at night.

Hack 7:

All the ride lines get shorter during the big nighttime shows.

If you’ve already seen the shows, hop on some of your favorite rides, the lines will be much shorter because everyone is watching the show.

people watching Disney's fireworks at the magic kingdom

We opt for the 2nd showing of the fireworks and like to stand BEHIND the castle.

Most nighttime shows normally run twice every night. We opt for the second showing of the night because it is far less crowded. Be sure to check the show schedule to see if they actually have 2 shows that night, but they normally do.

Hack 8:

Besides the rides and attractions, there are really fun (and free!) extra experiences you can do in the parks.

You can do these activities in between rides or when you just need some downtime.

In the Magic Kingdom, our family loves playing and collecting the cards for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

young girl standing in front of the sorcerers of the magic kingdom sign

In this game, you use spell cards to defeat Disney Villains all over the park. To get started, visit the Fire Station (located to the left when you enter Magic Kingdom) and get your free pack of spell cards and a map. Each pack contains 5 cards. There are 115 cards in all so it’s fun to try and collect as many as you can.

Each person can get a new pack each day you visit Magic Kingdom. So if you really want to collect as many cards as you can (and you have park hopper tickets) head to Magic Kingdom each day and grab your new pack of cards!

Also in the Magic Kingdom, in Adventure Land, you can go on a Pirate Scavenger hunt.

There are 5 different maps you can follow and after you finish each one you can receive a pirate trading card. If you finish all 5 missions, you get a card signed by Captain Jack Sparrow!

One of our favorite ways to experience the world showcase in EPCOT is to help Agent P (Perry from Phineas and Ferb) solve clues to defeat Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

young boy holding phone out in front of him

In England and Mexico, you can request to be a secret agent where they will issue you your own interactive smartphone to follow a scavenger-like hunt. It’s so much fun because your phone will activate secret things all over the park that no one knows is even there!

One of our favorite things was when we relayed a secret phrase to one of the cast members and the cast member gave us a penny which activated a special hidden penny press. It pressed the penny into our next clue!

One way to really enjoy Animal Kingdom in an adventurous way is to become a Wilderness Explorer. At the front of the park, they give you a book and you can go around the park earning 30 different badges (stickers) for your book.

Check this out to discover all the amazing FREE souvenirs you can collect at Disney World. (The kind your family will treasure for a lifetime.)

Hack 9:

You can collect Free Disney Transportation cards from each mode of Transportation…Monorail, Bus, and Boat.

There are several different cards in the series so when you ride any Disney transportation just ask the cast member if they have a transportation card you can have. Sometimes they give us several cards if we’re waiting there for a while.

young girl waiting for the Disney Monorail

Hack 10:

Earn a free turkey Leg at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.

Yes, I said it…a free turkey leg! You won’t find this anywhere on the Disney World website but it really did work for us…twice.

woman eating a turkey leg at nighttime in the magic kingdom

We heard that if you went to the Turkey Leg vendor and gobbled around like a Turkey you would get you a free turkey leg. We were a bit skeptical but our daughter, who was 10 at the time, said she would do it. And it worked! She gobbled and pranced around like a turkey and the cast member handed a leg over to her. Hah!

She did it again in the Magic Kingdom with one of her friends and they gave her another one. This isn’t “official” but it worked for us!

Phew. You made it all the way through! Now you’re ready to go. I cannot wait for you to explore Disney World and have one of the best experiences of your life. It’s truly a magical place.

As always, let me know if I can help you navigate your upcoming vacation. You’re in for a treat.

. . .

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Welcome to Being Katie Brave! I’m so happy to have you here. If you’re looking to take better pictures (stress-free!), get the inside scoop on all things Disney World, or be inspired to live YOUR best life (even if especially if it scares you to death) …you’re in the right place. I ’ve written 3 photography books, our family lived at Disney World for 2 years, and wear my heart on my sleeve…all of which would never have come to pass if I didn’t push past my fears and step in the darkness. Join me as I share my adventure of life, one post at a time.

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