This past April, my parents, husband and I made a trip to Walt Disney World during Spring Break (the week of Easter), and even though we used to go every year at this time when I was a kid, I was still concerned about the crowds. I was worried that it would be so crowded that we wouldn’t even be able to move, much less actually ride or do anything!
Since I knew it would be busy, I did my research, and came up with some some ways to deal with the crowds. You can’t prevent the Parks from being overcrowded, but you CAN have a strategy for dealing with it, and it should incorporate at least some of these:
Extra Magic Hours – This is a huge perk of staying on WDW property (Read about more of those perks here), and it basically boils down to more Park time for you, as certain Parks will open early/stay open late on specific days, and these extra hours are only open to guests staying at the WDW Resort Hotels. I personally prefer morning Extra Magic Hours to evening ones, as I can get there early right when the park opens, and it’s nice and empty, and I can ride all my favorite rides (sometimes multiple times in a row!) without much wait at all. I highly recommend utilizing the Extra Magic Hours whenever possible!
Utilize Fastpasses– The Fastpass system has been in place for years, and while it is currently undergoing some changes, it’s main goal is still to get you on the most popular rides as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once I arrive at a WDW Theme Park, I will head over to my favorite attraction, pick up a fastpass, and then I will usually get in the standby line to ride it right then and there. That way, I get to ride it, then go do some other attractions, then come back and ride it again! This works especially well in the mornings, right after the park opens, when the standby line hasn’t gotten too long (which usually happens mid morning)
Planning your Meals – Since you can make your Advance Dining Reservations, or ADR’s, 180 days before your trip, you can plan your sit down meals and which parks to visit around those meals, and you can pick other places you might want to eat in advance as well by perusing sites like the Disney Food Blog to see what is available in each Park (this might be especially important if you have someone in your party with special dietary/allergy needs). I also recommend trying new restaurants, ones that are off the beaten path – there are some amazing restaurants at the WDW Resorts, and it’s a great way to escape the crowded Parks and enjoy a new meal in a new setting!
Eating at Odd times – This is a common tip that I have seen published a lot, and its definitely worthwhile to make your ADR’s for weird times, like a 2pm lunch, or a 10:30am breakfast. It’s also a good tip to follow when looking to grab a counter service meal at the Parks, as everyone will tend to want to eat around noon for lunch, and around 5 or 6 for dinner. If you are willing/able to eat outside the standard meal times, you will find less crowded restaurants and shorter lines, which adds up to more time for touring and rides/attractions
Have A Plan – Now, there are many spreadsheets/planners/apps etc that can help you plan out your days at the Parks, and some of them are very intense and have you planning your days down to the minute. I like planning, but that’s too much even for me! I usually will make a rough outline, including our ADR’s and working in which Parks we will go to around those, and I also will make a list of “MUST SEE” rides/attractions for each Park, and I try to keep it short (under 5 items per park, so I don’t feel overwhelmed with things I HAVE to do while at the Parks), and above all I try and remember to be flexible, that crowds can end up affecting my plans, and that is ok, I will get to do all the things I want to do (eventually!)
Take a Break before you Breakdown – I have found that the best way to handle the Parks is to arrive early (when they open if possible), and spend the morning on your favorite rides/attractions, and then once lunchtime hits, to escape back to your WDW Resort for lunch, and a swim or a nap (or all three!). This is a tip you hear a lot, and that is because its one of the best tips out there – especially if you have kids, by about lunchtime they might start to get cranky and hungry, and its much better to avoid this by heading back to the hotel and grabbing lunch there (where it will be less crowded than the Parks). Note that this also works for adults who are prone to crankiness and meltdowns (trust me, I would know!). Once you are all rested and rejuvinated, you can head back to the Parks later in the afternoon/early evening, where the sun won’t be as hot, and the crowds will have thinned out some, allowing you more quality Park time!
It used to be that there were “busy times” at WDW, but recently it seems that there is always some kind of promotion or special event going on, which makes pretty much every time a ‘busy time’, which is fine by me, the more people that go, the more attractions/resorts they will build and the longer WDW will be around for future generations to enjoy!
Check out this calendar to get an idea of when the crowds might be at peak volume. Oddly enough, while it was crowded on our Easter trip, it wasn’t that bad, certainly not anything we couldn’t handle, thankfully in part to the above tips! At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is to assume it will be crowded, and plan accordingly!
Some of the above may seem obvious, or they may be things that you already do, or you may have better ideas than me, so I want to know: What do YOU do to deal with the crowds at WDW?
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