Disney World Tips and Tricks 2023

Get the most out of your Disney trip with these tips and tricks

by Alicia Butler, June 4, 2023

Disney world tips and tricks 2023
Alicia Butler

Alicia Butler is a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She started traveling full time back in 2018, before it was cool to do so. She’s been going to Disney World since she was a kid.

She was an NYC tour guide for eight years, so she can tell you all the best places to eat pizza, bagels, and falafel — as well as what to pack and what to leave home.

If you’re planning to go to Disney World in 2023, I’ve got a few tips and tricks that will help make your trip go so much more smoothly — especially if you’re planning a Disney adult trip.

These Disney World hacks for 2023 are for Disney World only. Yet, if you’re looking for Disneyland tips, I’ve got you covered, too.

If you want my Disney travel advice, don’t just “wing” a trip to the parks. There’s so much to see and do here that you’re going to want to have a game plan.

Disney is also a very popular destination post pandemic, and everything I’ve said above goes double—triple—if you’re planning a trip to the parks during peak travel seasons.

This post may contain affiliate links, so if you buy something after clicking on a link, I might (fingers crossed!) just get a little commission. Good news: I only recommend products that I love! Which means you can feel good about all of my recs.

2023 Disney Hacks – At a Glance

  • Avoid peak travel times. 
  • Book dining reservations up to 60 days in advance.
  • Purchase Genie+. 
  • Stay at a Disney resort (Extra Magic Hours/free transportation).
  • Create park itineraries.
  • Prioritize popular attractions.
  • Rope-drop one to two rides a day.
  • Utilize Single Rider lines.
  • Practice Disney dos and don’ts.
  • Sit at the bar when you don’t have a reservation.
  • Use all Disney transportation, including buses, boats, monorails, etc.
  • Take advantage of MyDisney+ features.
  • Know when to splurge and when to save.
  • Go early morning and late-night entries.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to Disney alone!
  • Plan meals wisely.
  • Use Disney gift card discounts. 
  • Don’t show up at Disney unprepared.
  • Plan for severe heat in the summertime.

Things to Know About Disney World Parks

Before I get into my Disney World hacks for 2023, there are a few things you should know about the parks, including peak travel times and general 2023-specific information. 

Peak Travel Times (Busiest Months/Days)

Summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day)

Spring break (March and April)

Between Christmas and New Years

Some October dates (during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party)

Holidays and weekends are also busier, and while Mondays and Fridays aren’t always busy, they’re generally busier than Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

It’s important to know if you’re planning on visiting during peak season because it will determine how you plan your trip.

If you’re traveling during peak times, you’re going to want to:

  • Book dining reservations in advance (up to 60 days)
  • Purchase Genie+ (more on this in a sec)
  • Stay at a Disney resort (to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours)

Disney World Hacks for 2023 

So what’s new at the parks this year? Make sure to take note of these Disney World hacks for 2023 to get the best deals and stay up to date on major changes. 

Genie+ Lightning Lane

Genie+ is a new(ish) service offered at Disneyland California and Disney World. 

The biggest perk of this service is the ability to schedule (and in some cases pay extra money for) LightningLane, which allows you to skip the line for the most popular rides. 

Here’s how it works.

When you purchase Genie+, you’ll be able to schedule LightningLanes (LL) for popular rides, such as the “mountains” and Fantasyland dark rides at Magic Kingdom, Tower of Terror and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, and Test Track and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT — just to name a few. 

Disney only opens certain time slots for rides, and you can only have one LL booked at a time. 

Since the Standby Lines for most rides (even the most popular ones) don’t get too unbearable until after the parks have been open for at least the first half hour, you shouldn’t book an LL for your first ride (or two) of the morning.

If a park opens at 9 a.m., book your first LL for between 9:45 and 10:45; choose two popular rides to rope-drop (make a beeline for your first ride the second the “rope drops” at opening), preferable ones that are located in the same “land” or in lands near each other.

You’ll be able to experience three popular rides at the beginning of the day, without waiting in line. 


Genie+ costs start at $25 per person per day. 

Disney World Extended Evening Hours

If you’re staying at a deluxe Disney resort (for at least two nights), make sure you take advantage of Extended Evening Hours. 

Disney allows you to enjoy the parks at night, and you won’t need to share them with the plebs staying off-property or even at moderate or budget resorts. 

25% Off Disney Resort Hotels

Disney is running a promo for 25% off hotels for certain dates in the summer and fall. 

Take advantage of this if you’re planning on traveling during these seasons (you don’t need a promo code or a special link, the promotion is available while supplies last). 

Disney Park Reservations

As of 2023, you still need to make park reservations at Disney World; however, this is expected to go away in early 2024.

This means, having a ticket for a Disney World park or staying at a Disney World resort isn’t enough to secure entry into the parks. You need to also make that reservation. 

Yes, you will be turned away at a Disney park if you don’t have a reservation and the park is sold out on your desired day.

The good news is that if you go during a swing season, the odds of parks being sold out are lower than if you were to go during the peak travel season. 

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Disney World Park Hacks

Not all Disney World Parks were created the same. 

While Disney offers a solid selection of rides, shows, character meet-and-greets, restaurants, and experiences across all parks, you’ll find that some parks are “heavier” on the rides, while others offer more by way of experiences and overall vibes and theming. 

Please note that park hours in this guide are approximate, and Disney changes opening/closing hours depending on the season, events, weather, and other factors.

Animal Kingdom Hacks

Consider Animal Kingdom to be a zoo-meets-theme-park experience. The animals are a huge draw here, and there’s lots of wildlife to see. 

Animal Kingdom is the park with the fewest rides — but the rides it does have are pretty awesome. 

On an Animal Kingdom-focused day, I like to get all of my must-do rides done in the morning and use part of the afternoon to wander around and check out the animal attractions. 

Animal Kingdom Suggested Itinerary

Park opening/first hour: rope-drop Avatar Flight of Passage and/or Na’vi River Journey. 

Second hour: Expedition Everest

Third hour: Dinosaur

Lunch break

Afternoon: Animal experiences, character meet-and-greets

Fifth/sixth hour: Kilimanjaro Safari/Kali River Rapids

Animal Kingdom Hours

8/9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Don’t throw caution to the wind and buy travel necessities like sunscreen at Disney gift shops. You can accept Amazon, Instacart, and Doordash deliveries at your Disney World hotels if you don’t want to pack this stuff in your bag.


EPCOT is divided into two sections: the World Showcase and World Discovery (though technically, Disney is now dividing the park into four sections, adding World Nature and World Celebration to the  World Discovery area).

But for all intents and purposes, you really only need to know the two sections.

Most of the rides are located outside of the World Showcase area. Since the parks are less busy in the mornings, you may want to prioritize this area of the park when it opens and head over to the World Showcase in the afternoon.

Since the World Showcase is also where most of the restaurants live in EPCOT, it’s a great spot for lunch and dinner. 

Of course, if you’re a Disney adult, you may want to do a bar crawl or a snack crawl through the World Showcase. 

EPCOT Suggested Itinerary

Park opening/first hour: rope-drop Test Track, Soarin’, or Mission Space; get in line right after for your second choice experience.

Second hour: Third choice + Spaceship Earth

Third hour: The Land, Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Lunch break

Afternoon: World Showcase + Lightning Lane/virtual queue Cosmic Rewind, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Frozen Ever After


9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Hollywood Studios Hacks

Hollywood Studios is (and has been) my all-time favorite park since it opened. It’s home to some of my favorite rides, as well as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

This park was opened during the Michael Eisner CEO era of the Walt Disney Co. in response to Eisner’s son claiming that Disney World was “for babies.” Eisner wanted a park that could compete with Universal Studios and offer Disney fans a way to ride their favorite movies.

Hollywood Studios is broken into three sections or “lands”, including:


  • Animation Courtyard
  • Commissary Lane
  • Echo Lake
  • Grand Avenue
  • Hollywood Boulevard
  • Pixar Place
  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Sunset Boulevard


Most of the rides can be found in Pixar Place (Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers), Galaxy’s Edge (Rise of the Resistance, Millennium Falcon, and Star Tours), Sunset Boulevard (Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster), and Hollywood Boulevard (Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway).

Though, you don’t really need to remember any “lands” except for Pixar Place, Galaxy’s Edge, and Sunset Boulevard.  

Hollywood Studios Suggested Itinerary

Park opening/first hour: rope-drop Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway + Tower of Terror OR Slinky Dog Dash + Toy Story Mania

Second hour: Second duo of the above

Third hour: The Land, Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Lunch break

Afternoon: Lightning Lane/virtual queue Rise of the Resistance & Millennium Falcon (or Single Rider for MF) + Star Tours – The Adventures Continue Standby/wander Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

Nighttime: Rockin Roller Coaster

Hollywood Studio Hours

8:30 a.m. to 9:30/10 p.m.

Magic Kingdom Hacks

The Magic Kingdom has — by far — the most attractions out of any Disney World park, and it may take two days to divide and conquer its many lands, including Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland. 

Not to mention Main Street, U.S.A. 

Magic Kingdom Suggested Itinerary

Park opening/first hour: rope-drop Space Mountain + Seven Dwarves Mine Ride  OR Jungle Cruise + Pirates of the Caribbean

Second hour: If starting in Tomorrowland/Fantasyland, wait in Standby Line for Fantasyland dark rides or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; if starting in Adventureland, wait in Standby Line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad + Haunted Mansion 

Third hour: Lightning Lane 

Lunch break

Afternoon: Lightning Lane/virtual queue Tomorrowland/Fantasyland or Adventureland/Frontierland (whichever you missed in the morning) + character meet-and-greets

Nighttime: Tron virtual queue

Magic Kingdom Hours

9:00 a.m. to 9/10 p.m.

Rise of the Resistance is possibly the most popular ride in Disneyland — and I have to agree it’s totally worth the cost of a Lightning Lane Pass.

How to Beat the Queues at Disney World

Most regulars use a combo of these Disney World tips and tricks to avoid major waits on most rides.

Prioritize Popular Attractions

Rope Drop: Rope dropping is the term Disney fans use for getting to the parks right when they open and making a bee-line for popular attractions.

Some of the most commonly rope-dropped rides include the “mountains” at the Magic Kingdom, including Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain (soon to be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure). 

Early/Late Entry: Disney offers early and/or late entry to most parks for guests of its resorts. 

If you’re staying at any Disney resort you can usually take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. If you’re staying at a Deluxe resort for a minimum of a two-night stay, you can take advantage of Extended Evening Hours. 

Genie+ Lightning Lane: Disney’s Lightning Lane is the new FastPass. Pay extra to get the Genie+ app and access to priority lane passes for some of Disney’s most popular rides. 

Virtual Queues: Some rides only offer virtual queues, meaning there is no standby line. This is the only way to get on new rides at Disney, including Rise of the Resistance, Cosmic Rewind, and Tron Lightcycle. 

Visit Disney During Off-Peak Times

Visiting during off-peak times is both a Disney World tip and trick that is so valuable, I’ve included it many times in this article. 

I almost always visit Disney World during the swing seasons, which include the last three weeks of September and the last three weeks of January. 

You’ll be able to ride all of your favorite rides without waiting in a line for over 30 minutes (in most cases) and even ride some multiple times.

Go Solo

Even if you’re traveling with friends or family, utilize Single Rider Lines. You’ll be able to get on a ride much faster than if you were to go with your party.

Disclaimer: Many Disney visitors don’t realize Single Rider Lines are a thing, and Disney employees don’t do a great job (in my opinion) educating non-single riders they’ll be enjoying an attraction with a solo rider not in their party. 

You may get some dirty looks from other riders when you hop onto a roller coaster with them or ask them to please move over so you can sit down. You may also be seated with unaccompanied children, which can also be annoying at times. 

Disney World Hacks for First Timers: Dos and Don’ts

Need some first-trip-to-Disney-World tips? I’ve got you covered. Here are my dos and don’ts for Disney World first-timers. 

Don’t try to do everything. Especially if you’re going during peak season. 


When I was a tour guide in NYC, this was the no. 1 piece of advice I’d give guests — and it rings equally true in Disney World. 

There is so much to see and do here. Disney did this on purpose to keep guests coming back. There will always be more additions and improvements and changes here. 

If you try to do it all at once, you won’t soak in as much, and you definitely won’t enjoy your experiences as much. 

Do choose one park to focus on per day. 

Do that park in the morning, and (if you have time) park hop in the afternoon. That means if you’ve done all your must-do attractions in the morning, move on to another park. Or, enjoy some downtime at the hotel pool after lunch. Other afternoon ideas include exploring the World Showcase at EPCOT (sans rides) or shopping at Disney Springs.

Choose your top must-do activities at each priority park. Write them down in order of importance. Then, prioritize Disney World’s most popular attractions.

Don’t forget to book your virtual queues first thing in the morning. 

Do try to be flexible if you don’t happen to get that reservation or virtual queue you were hoping for. 

Don’t worry! There’s so much to do at Disney World that you’ll be able to get on another ride or a seat at another restaurant. Even if that ride or restaurant isn’t on your “must-do” list, there’s a good chance you’re still gonna love it. 

Tips for Disney Dining Reservations

If you’re planning on eating at sit-down restaurants at Disney, you’re going to need some reservations.

Disney opens dining reservations starting 60 days out. Restaurants open more reservations at 6:00 a.m. the morning of, too.

Depending on when you’re visiting Disney World, restaurant reservations can be quite competitive. I usually only go to Disney during swing seasons (September and mid-January), and I almost never travel with a large group, so it’s easier for me to book last-minute reservations (actually, I’ve never booked Disney dining reservations in advance). 

If you’re like me and don’t want to set your entire trip in stone two months in advance, I’ve got some Disney dining reservation tips that should help you get last-minute seating.

Sit at the Bar

Disney doesn’t offer bars in every restaurant. But if there is a bar (and you don’t have a large group), I recommend sitting there. 

I’m a huge fan of sitting at bars. Not only is this a great way to meet fellow travelers, but I usually get better service at the bar than I would at a table. 

For one, the bartender is always right there. Need something? Extra sauce? An ETA on a forgotten drink order? An extra napkin? They’ve got you covered.

Since Disney is a family destination (I know, who would have thought?), the bars aren’t always at capacity. And if you’re a Disney solo traveler, you may even be able to squeeze into a lone seat at the bar.

You can get the same menu as you would at a table, and you won’t need to make a reservation. 

Eat at Disney Lounges

I love eating at Disney lounges — maybe even more than I love eating at its bars.

Disney has some of the best-themed lounges, where you can get snacks, small plates, and drinks. 

This is a Disney budgeting tip, too.

If you’re like me, you’d rather graze on small plates than order a huge meal at Disney. For one, no one wants to take leftovers back to the room on a Disney vacation. 

What, are you gonna eat that food at lunch the next day? No!

Some of the best Disney lounges that serve some of the best small plates include Trader Sam’s Grotto, Tambu Lounge, Steakhouse 71, the Crew Cup Lounge, Dahlia Lounge, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, La Cava del Tequila, Nomad Lounge, Voyager’s Lounge, and Outer Rim. 

Most of these lounges are located in Disney resorts — specifically at the deluxe resorts. That means you can enjoy a deluxe resort without throwing down the money to stay at one. 

Ask at the Hostess Stand

Just because a restaurant appears full on the MyDisney app doesn’t mean it’s totally booked to the brim.

If you’re flexible, you may be able to make a last-minute cancellation or another party’s no-show your bitch. 

Just know that this Disney World tip doesn’t always work. A lot of times I’ve had host staff tell me that the availability on the app is the availability they need to abide by. But depending on the season and crowd levels, checking at the hostess stand could possibly score you that reservation you’re dying to get.

At the very least, you may be asked to sit at the bar while you wait for a table to open up. 

Disney World Transportation Hacks

Disney offers plenty of transportation options, but not all transportation was created equally at the House of Mouse.

These Disney World transportation tips will help you get to and from your favorite attractions and your resort.

Disney offers several different transportation options, including buses, boats, the monorail, and the SkyLiner.

Disney World Bus Hacks

If you’re staying on Disney property, you can take a bus to any park. Most buses will swing by your hotel every 10 minutes or so.

The earliest bus will drop you off one hour before the park opens, and the latest bus departs the park one hour after closing. Buses run between resorts and Disney Springs until 2 a.m. 

Depending on the size of your resort, there may be several different bus stops.

When you’re at your resort, each bus that stops will display its park destination. When you’re at a resort, each bus will display its resort destination. There is a separate line for each resort at every park, and buses only stop at one resort, meaning you won’t need to make several stops to get back home each night. 

Disney World Monorail Hacks

The Disney World monorail stops at the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and the Transportation and Ticket Center. 

Another monorail line travels between the Transportation and Ticket Center, the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, the Magic Kingdom, and the Contemporary Resort. 

That means you’ll need to switch lines at the Transportation and Ticket Center if you’re staying at the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian resorts. 

Disney World Boat Hacks

The following Disney resorts offer boat transportation:


  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • The Polynesian Village Resort
  • The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  • Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • The Beach Club 
  • The Yacht Club
  • Boardwalk Inn
  • The Dolphin Hotel
  • The Swan Hotel
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort
  • Port Orleans French Quarter 
  • Old Key West
  • Saratoga Springs Resort and Treehouses


But just because there’s boat transportation at your hotel, doesn’t mean the boat automatically sails to every stop where boats dock.

Guests staying at the Grand Floridian Resort and the Polynesian Village Resort can take a boat to the Magic Kingdom. There’s a separate boat that travels between the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, and the Contemporary Resort.

Guests staying at the following resorts have access to the EPCOT International Gateway Boat Launch:


  • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas
  • Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort
  • Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels


There’s also a boat that operates between Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Disney Springs. 

Disney Hacks for Adults

I almost exclusively travel to Disney with other adults, so I’m in a unique position to offer some Disney World tips for adults!

Take advantage of early mornings and late nights. Yes, you’ll still see plenty of kids out early in the morning and late at night, but there won’t be as many. These times are perfect for Disney adults — not just because there aren’t as many little ones — but also because the parks will be less crowded during these hours in general.

Don’t forget to act like a kid. The whole purpose of embracing your inner Disney adult is that it gives you agency to act like a kid again. 

You have my total permission to dress in Disney swag, wear the ears, and get just as excited as the other kids at Disney.

Stay at the right resort. Some Disney resorts were clearly designed with kids in mind. 

Obviously, Disney World is geared toward kids, but much of the parks and the resorts were designed for adults, too (if it weren’t, why would there be so many adult beverages???). 

The best Disney World resorts for adults are the ones that offer more elegant theming, are located closer to Hollywood Studios and EPCOT (or at least have convenient transportation to these parks), and — quite frankly — aren’t obviously geared toward children. 

Pay no attention to the haters. There’s been some pushback against Disney adults lately. Mostly from parents who are cranky because adults are clogging up lines or taking their much-coveted restaurant reservations.

Disney clearly isn’t just for kids, and you have just as much right to be at Disney as they do.

Disney World Solo Trip Hacks

If you’re thinking of planning a Disney World solo trip, just do it! 

Yes, you may feel a little strange going to Disney by yourself (at first), but there is so much fun to be had that it’s totally worth it.

There are plenty of benefits of a Disney World solo trip (and yes, even a few disadvantages). But the benefits outweigh the downsides.

Benefits of a Disney World Solo Trip

Snag Solo Bar Seats

It’s easier to grab seats at your favorite bar when you’re traveling solo. 

There’s almost always a free bar stool available at any Disney watering hole, which makes it easier to plan snacks, drinks, and meals on the fly. No need to book that resy 60 days in advance when you’re going to Disney alone!

Skip the Line

Disney offers solo riders the chance to skip the line with Single Rider Lines.

For some rides at Disney World, such as the Millenium Falcon, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Test Track, and Expedition Everest, you can “skip the line” if you’re a single rider (or if you’re just willing to ride separately from your party.

Do What You Wanna Do

When you’re on a Disney World solo trip, you can literally do whatever the heck you want. 

There’s no one else to weigh in (or rather whine in) and complain they’re tired, hungry, or need to “rest their legs” for a while. Eyeroll.

Disadvantages of Traveling Alone to Disney World

All joking aside, doing Disney solo is a really cool experience. 

If you’ve never done Disney solo before (and especially if you’ve never taken a solo trip before), you might feel weird doing so at first. During my Disney solo trip, I felt like a loser everyone was staring at and judging. 

But really, it’s a very common thing to do these days. 

But there are some disadvantages of traveling alone, too. And I don’t just mean the internal struggles of feeling lonely during your trip. 

There are also some very real downsides to traveling solo to Disney.

Expect to Pay More

Without another person (or few) to split the cost of a hotel room, you’re going to pay more than you would if you were traveling with friends.

Yet, maybe not?

I recently priced a hotel stay at Disney in mid-September and was waffling between Disney’s All-Star Music Resort and the Port Orleans Riverside. 

I love staying at the Port Orleans, but the price was almost exactly double the price of staying at the All-Star Music Resort. I’m considering doing a solo trip, but I also have a few friends that might be interested in joining. If I were to stay at Port Orleans, it would almost certainly be with a friend.

In the end, I decided to get my own room at the All-Star Music Resort and tell my friend to get a room there too if he wants to come. We each would get our own rooms for under $1,000 each for the whole week. 

Possible FOMO

Are you going to get FOMO watching families have a blast with each other at Disney World? Possibly. 

For me, I get FOMO when I see friend groups or couples having fun together at Disney, not families. 

Most of the parents look ready to drop their kids off at the orphanage when they’re at Disney. Ya, ya, ya. They’re just tired and cranky, and these are the memories that make life worth living.

But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s just nice to do Disney by myself. Yes, it doesn’t always feel all sunshine and roses all day every day when I’m traveling solo, but it doesn’t always feel that way when I’m traveling with friends, either.

Just as I might (totally normally and understandably) feel slightly exhausted from spending an entire week with friends, I also get a little “over” spending that much time by myself, too. 

Disney Saving Hacks

Planning a Disney trip on a budget isn’t as tricky as it sounds. In fact, you can visit Disney World on the cheap without too much planning — if you’re willing to be somewhat flexible.

If you’re looking for ways to save on Disney vacation, you may want to consider the following:


  • Disney resort
  • Time of year
  • Meals
  • Souvenirs

Disney World Budget Hack #1: Splurge Vs Save

Disney World is expensive. Actually, any resort-based vacation is going to be a bit pricey.

But in my opinion, Disney World doesn’t totally price gouge you the way a lot of resorts will, and not everything is outlandishly overpriced here.

If you’re like me and mostly traveling to Disney without kids, it may be easier to save some money by omitting some activities altogether or directing your funds to the activities you love most. 

If you’re headed to Disney sans children, some of the best Disney resorts for adults include the Polynesian Resort, Port Orleans Riverside, and Pop Century. 

What is most important to you? Your resort, meals, or souvenirs? The good news is you can have all three — just maybe not every extravagance all at the same time.

One easy way to save money on your trip is to book a moderate or budget Disney resort. Depending on how many people are in your party, you can save some serious cash by opting for less-expensive lodging.

Don’t really care about theming? Stay at the Disney Swan or Dolphin Hotels, both of which are located within walking distance of Hollywood Studios and EPCOT (saving both time and money). 

But if you do care about theming, location, or other resort factors, you may want to spend most of your budget on your resort. Just know that bumping down from a deluxe to moderate resort or a moderate to budget resort is one of the easiest ways to shave off hundreds to thousands of dollars from your budget.

Disney World Budget Hack #2: Plan Meals Wisely

You can save some serious money by planning your meals at Disney World. 

Food is one of the biggest money pits at Disney (both at the world and the lands), but there are plenty of budget options — as well as splurge-worthy spots.

Breakfast at Disney

I’m not a huge breakfast person (though I do enjoy a nice brunch from time to time). So, I don’t make breakfast a huge priority on park days. Instead, I eat a small snack, grab a latte at Starbucks, or make a breakfast sandwich if I’m staying at a hotel with a kitchen. 

Also, Florida is notoriously sub-tropical. And eating a huge breakfast right before I’m going to spend a humid day walking around the parks doesn’t really appeal to me.

You can also accept Instacart deliveries at your Disney hotel room, meaning you could just get a bunch of frozen breakfast sandwiches, yogurts, or protein bars for a fraction of the cost of a Disney breakfast. 

Lunch at Disney

For lunch, I have a serious game plan: on most park days, I eat lunch at quick-service restaurants. 

I also order the kids-size portioned meal. 

At Disney, anyone can order a kid’s meal, regardless of the restaurant. It’s the exact same food you’d get in the adult portion. The amount of food is the only difference. You also get a side (like fruit) and a small bottle of Dasani water. 

By doing this, I save about $5 per meal. 

I should mention that the kids-size portion tends to be just about the right amount of food for me. 

If you’re not going to be satiated by a smaller portion, obviously get the regular meal. But just know that if you find yourself not finishing meals at Disney, the kids’ portion is an option to save money.

Lunch usually costs between $8.50 and $10 when I do this; sometimes, I add a fountain soda for $4-ish because I love a frosty fountain beverage on a hot day. 

My second lunch tip is to book a sit-down restaurant for at least one day. The lunch and dinner prices at Disney are the same, but you can sometimes score a restaurant reservation at a popular spot easier for lunch than for dinner.

Dinner at Disney

For dinner at Disney, I generally don’t opt for an entree at every meal. Instead, I’ll usually order two appetizers or an appetizer and a side. 

Most Disney restaurants offer different takes on similar dishes. At most spots, you’ll find a steak, pork, chicken, and fish option. Where themed restaurants really tend to shine is in the appetizers. 

Also, be wary of the specials at Disney. 

One year, I noticed every restaurant offered some type of pork belly special. Which led me to believe that someone possibly mistakenly over-ordered pork belly and so each restaurant was trying to push it to get rid of it. 

I even ordered one of the pork belly specials, and the meat was really rubbery and chewy. And overpriced. 

If a special really looks good to you, go ahead and get it. But don’t necessarily expect that special to be… well, special. 

Another one of my favorite dinner tips is to eat at Disney lounges. I find the menus at lounges to be a little more unique and slightly more on-theme than your typical restaurants. Most lounges don’t serve full meals, but they do offer lots of small bites and snacks. 

I love trying a few different things and sharing with my friends (when I’m not on a solo trip), and the lounges are a great spot to do this. 

Disney World Budget Hack #3: Don’t Travel During Peak Seasons

If you’re traveling with kids, you may not be able to follow this Disney World tip, as summer, spring break, or weekends may be the only times you can travel. 

But I almost never visit Disney World during these peak seasons. For many reasons.

One, it gets crazy crowded in the parks from Memorial Day through Labor Day and during the months of March and April. (I also avoid Christmas break and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.)

Two, it’s typically more expensive to travel during peak seasons. 

The least-crowded months at Disney World (and Disneyland for that matter) are September and January (starting after Labor Day and the second week of January, respectively). During school seasons, the least-crowded days are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (excluding holidays). 

Also, keep an eye out for when Disney is running sales on resorts. You can score reservations at most resorts for 25% or 30% off during such sales. If you’re booking in advance, you don’t need to pay for your resort stay up front, either. You can pay a $200 deposit and cancel up to a week in advance to avoid paying the remainder. 

Disney World Budget Hack #4: Save on Souvenirs

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge souvenir person. 

I like to choose one souvenir per trip, and it’s usually something like a scarf or a mug or sweatshirt or something that’s practical and that I can use regularly. I generally only end up spending around $30 on souvenirs during a trip to Disney.

But if you do love souvenirs, there are some ways you can save money on them, too.

One way is to purchase Disney gift cards when they’re on sale at BJ’s or Sam’s Club. You can also save 5% on Disney gift cards at Target when you purchase them with your Red Card. 

That means a $100 Disney gift card will only cost $95. Which may seem like not such a great deal. But here’s the thing: you can use Disney gift cards to pay for pretty much anything at Disney parks, including meals, hotels, park tickets, and (of course) souvenirs.

My upcoming Disney trip is going to cost me:


Hotel: $850

Park tickets: $480

Meals (approximately): $255

Snacks/drinks: $175

Souvenirs: $30

Total: $1,790


5% of $1,790 is just under $100, which is totally worth buying the $1,800 worth of gift cards!

You could also use your Disney credit card to save 10% at some restaurants and shops. Or, use a travel rewards credit card to earn miles (I get two-to-three miles per dollar spent with my Chase Sapphire Rewards Card) toward future travel or purchases. 

If you book a hotel through a site like Hotels.com or Booking.com, you could also get up to 10% back with Rakuten. 

When to Visit Disney


The least crowded times to visit Disney include the last three weeks of September and the last three weeks of January. 

Other slow-ish times include May (before Memorial Day), the beginning of November, and most of February (excluding holidays). 

I’ve also visited the week after Thanksgiving, and it wasn’t too crowded. 

If you’re OK with subtropical temperatures, I’d recommend visiting the second week in September (this is when I prefer to go). If you go in January, it’s a leee-tle too chilly for me. When I was a kid, we’d always go in July or August, and there’s something nostalgic about visiting Disney when it’s H-O-T, hot. 

Of course, going to Disney when it’s decked out for the holidays is a whole experience unto itself (the Jungle Cruise transforms into the Jingle Cruise — adorable). 

Disney World in July/August Hacks

There’s no way around it: Disney World in July and August is kind of the worst, in my opinion.

It’s crowded and hot. And while I understand that Disney is geared mostly toward children, I still don’t want to be in the parks when there are swarms of small children who are overly tired, stimulated, and cranky. 

But if you must visit Disney in July and August, I have a few tips that will make the whole experience slightly better.

Splurge on Genie+

Yes, adding Genie+ to your already potentially expensive Disney vacation can make that price continue to rise.

But you really only need it if you’re planning to visit Disney World during the busiest months. If you can only visit Disney World in July or August (or during spring break), you’re going to want to budget for this.

Genie+ starts at $25 per day — and that’s for the slowest days. In the past, it has cost as much as $35 during peak seasons. This service can also sell out, meaning you’re going to want to go ahead and make that purchase as soon as possible before your July/August Disney World vacation.

Hang Out in the World Showcase

If you’re going to Disney sans kiddos (or if your kids are just really cool), you may want to avoid the crowds (and potentially beat some of the heat) by hanging out in the World Showcase.

In every World Showcase country, there’s at least one restaurant, and in many of the “countries” you’ll also find a lounge or bar. Of course, there are also plenty of food and beverage carts in every country, too — though you get the advantage of air conditioning at these spots.

The World Showcase is also chock-full of stores, so you’ll get the opportunity to escape the heat while you’re shopping.

Choose Your Resort Wisely

Visiting Disney World in July and August is (quite frankly) exhausting. 

Not only are you on your feet all day, but everything is taking ten times longer than it normally would because there are so many dang people everywhere — and why is the line for Small World over an hour anyway?!

Your resort can be a calming oasis away from the chaos, or it can be a chaos factory itself.

If you’re visiting Disney World in July or August, you’re going to want to stay at a resort that’s easily accessible and has a chill vibe. You’re also going to want to opt for one that doesn’t have a sprawling layout, which makes getting back “home” even harder each afternoon or evening.

Unfortunately, this removes most moderate and budget resorts and leaves you paying $ 500 or more per night for a deluxe resort.

If you don’t mind missing out on theming, I actually recommend staying at the Disney Swan or Dolphin hotels. Both are within walking distance of the EPCOT World Showcase and Hollywood Studios. These hotels also offer a shuttle to the parks or (don’t tell anyone) you can walk over to the Boardwalk Inn and take the Disney bus to the parks. 

You’re also going to want to stay on property during the busiest months. Why? Because Disney Resort guests get early entry into the parks (and deluxe resort guests get Extended Evening Hours). 

You won’t need to wait for the most popular rides during these hours, and you can save your LightningLanes for other rides (or to ride your favorite rides a second time). 

One of my best Disney World in August tips? Do anything and everything you can to beat the heat!

Hacks to Beat the Heat at Disney 

If you’re traveling to Disney World between the months of April and October (or really, even March and November with all this climate change), it’s going to be hot.

The hottest months in Orlando are mid-June to mid-September. 

But honestly, while mid-September can be hot, it’s not quite as torturous this time of the year, as you won’t be waiting in line so long for rides. 

Even though I’m not a huge fan of buying a ton of sh*t before a trip, I do have a list of products that can make your sub-tropical experience a little cooler. 

Must-Buy Disney Summer Products 

Anti-sweat wipes, creams, and/or sticks – these are really important if your feet blister or your get chafing on your thighs when wearing skirts or shorts. 

Anti-sweat wipes are notoriously crazy expensive, but these wipes are the cheapest I can find and I only use them for these types of trips.

Anti-chafing creams/bike shorts – I bought these lightweight shorts (really though, they feel like breathable nylons) before a summer trip to Mexico, and they changed my life.

This is the cheapest anti-chafing cream I can find and it also gets the job done.

Portable fans – Yes, you’re going to be that dork with a fan at Disney, but you’ll get the last laugh when you’re cool and you didn’t pay an arm and a leg for one at a park gift shop.

Cooling towels – these towels actually work and are credited with preventing heat exhaustion-fueled blowouts within my family. Do yourself a favor and buy one before you go so you’re not spending half your budget on one at a Disney giftshop.

Collapsible water bottle – I’ve been a huge fan of collapsible water bottles since my days as an NYC tour guide. Disney offers a few water bottle refilling stations, though they’re not in the most convenient locations. 

The benefit of a collapsible water bottle is that you can drink as much water as you want and dump the rest so you don’t need to carry a heavy water bottle around the park. You’ll also save money on bottled water this way. 

Disney Water Park Hacks

If you’re visiting Disney World between the months of March/April and September/October, it’s gonna be hot. And you’re going to want to take some time to cool off. 

All Disney resorts have pools; depending on your resort, your pool might be super cool (har, har) or it might be kind of “meh”. 

The deluxe and moderate resorts have the best pools, in my opinion, replete with water slides and fun theming. Disney does not allow “pool hopping” at resorts (you’ll need to swipe your keycard or Magic Band to get into pool areas), so don’t try to “trade up” if you’re staying at a budget or moderate resort. 

The other option is going to a Disney water park for the day. Disney has two water parks, including Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both offer similar attractions, including water slides, thrill slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers.

I’ve visited both water parks, and I personally love Blizzard Beach a bit more — just because I’m a sucker for a Christmas-in-July theme. 

A one-day water park ticket costs $69 for adults, but you can save money by bundling your water park ticket with your park tickets. 

Disney World Festival & Special Events Tips

EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival

July 27, 2023 – November 18, 2023

EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

March 1, 2023 – July 5, 2023

runDisney RACES

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: January 3 – 7, 2024

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend:

Springtime Surprise Weekend: April 13 – 16, 2023

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon – November 2 – 5, 2023

Holidays at Walt Disney World

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party: September and October

Disney Holidays: November through December