If you have a Disney trip coming up in the near future, you’ve probably begun to do a little research. It won’t take much digging to realize that the crowds are pretty rough right now. People are heading to Florida to escape winter, celebrate Spring Break, and make up for lost vacation time over the past two years.
Disney World is a crazy place to be right now, I won’t deny that. The crowds at Disney can be frustrating, overwhelming, and a bit much. Some might say they take away from the magic and the fun you can have on your vacation. That may be a trip that isn’t even worth it right now?
I too found myself getting caught up in this thought process, feeling overwhelmed and disappointed by the masses of people flocking to the Most Magical Place on Earth.
However, then I started thinking, the crowds at the parks really aren’t new. Over the past few months to a year, minus a small window when the parks first reopened, we’ve seen consistently larger crowds at Walt Disney World. We’ve seen tons of first-time visitors and continuous repeat visitors making annual, all finding their way to the four parks. On top of that, there has been a lot of ‘revenge traveling’, as people make up for the lost time.
Crowds at Walt Disney World Are Not New
All that to say, the crowds aren’t new. There has always been a draw to Disney World. Whether it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, a semi-annual vacation, or a celebration of a special event, there are always people flocking to Disney World. There is a desire to go, to experience the magic, and to step outside of the normal world for a while.
If that desire is still there, there has to be something attracting the crowds.
There has to be some magic still!
And, I find myself agreeing. There is still magic! It just looks different than it has in the past. This means there have been some changes, and change takes a little getting used to.
Change is hard, change is challenging, but change is the norm. Whether we like it or not.
We, as humans, don’t typically like change. We rather have most things we like stay the same, especially the things we’ve come to know and love. It’s easier for us to process and live our day-to-day.
That desire for a lack of change can often carry over into vacation worlds and planning. We like it when we know what to expect. It takes some of the questions out of travel and allows us to put our guard down and relax.
However, since change is inevitable in life, it’s going to be inevitable in all areas of our life. Include outlier areas, that typically don’t affect our every day, such as vacation. Even a Walt Disney World vacation.
As with any change, we have to adapt or be left behind as the things that have changed move forward.
Should You Go To Disney World Right Now?
I know personally, we will still be going back to Disney World. We just find ourselves, needing time to process how to parks work now. How things are different and how those differences are our new norm. When we return, our trips are going to be modified. We want to find the magic and the enjoyment, which means adjustments need to be made.
Gone are the days, for us, of back-to-back park days, of constantly being on the go. Instead, with all the changes and technological differences that the parks are presenting, we need space between our Disney Theme Park days and more downtime. So much more of our park days are spent tied to our smart devices and phones. This is helpful as we have adjustable plans at our fingertips. Yet, it also forces us to stay tied to our phones, in search of fine-tuning and adjusting plans.
Personally, we are not fans of this constant phone usage during our park days. We fall into the camp of preferring to have our park day itineraries set before we even walk into a park. That’s not possible to fully do, these days. Nor, is it possible to have a trip of spontaneity. We have adjusted expectations to make our trips just what we need. Because, big surprise here, we are still fans of the parks!
Find Magic Among the Crowds at Disney
Perhaps you’re planning a future trip and the thought of the crowds and technological adjustments overwhelms you? If you’re in a similar camp that I was, take a look below for a few suggestions of how to manage your day, the crowds at Disney, the technology that now goes into your park day, and, well, the magic.
Your trip can still be magical. Your trip can still be full of days that are core memory-making magic. You just need to be prepared, more than ever, before you head on your trip.
Mobile Order or Book Dining Ahead to Beat the Crowds
Plan your meals ahead of time!!
Can’t stress this concept enough. If you have your meals planned out before you head to the parks, you’re going to save yourself a ton of time and headaches. We’ve tried to wing our meals when in the Disney parks, but it really hasn’t worked that smoothly. Often there are no openings or hour (s, as in hours plural) long waits. On top of that the more popular restaurants are impossible to get into. We’ve learned that planning things out is the way to go.
It’s always been advised to book your sit-down dining ahead of your Disney trip. The restaurants on the property fill up fast and it can be super challenging to find a sit-down restaurant without a super long wait. If you book ahead, you at least know where you are eating and when you are eating.
However, not everyone likes to plan their meals ahead of time. What sounds good to eat right now, at the time of booking, might sound less appealing on your actual restaurant day.
How do you cope with this? Well, you could skip a sit-down meal altogether, or you could plan one of two things.
Book Dinning the Day Before Your Park Day
You can book your dining ahead of time, such as mentioned above, but if that doesn’t fly with your own planning style, you do have an option. You can book your dining the day before your park day. Most reservations need to be canceled 24 hours before they occur in order to avoid a fee. So, if someone is going to drop a reservation last minute, it typically occurs the day before. It might not be a reservation for one of the more popular restaurants, but you might get lucky! Either way, this last-minute booking can help you plan your dining reservations closer to when you are actually planning to eat.
The trick to this tip involves being on your phone a lot, and refreshing the reservation page over and over again, but if you get the place you want to eat at, it might be worth it!
Alternatively, some restaurants offer walk-up dining reservations. It’s not too often you’ll find a reservation at a super popular restaurant, but possibly some of the places that are a little less in demand. It doesn’t hurt to try this method. Especially if you aren’t particularly picky about where you eat.
Mobile Ordering at Disney Parks
Mobile ordering is for the quick service meals on Disney property and a big-time saver. Quick service restaurants serve the more standard theme park fare (think burgers, fries, chicken tenders), plus a few more unique options depending on what location you are at.
You are able to place mobile orders via the My Disney Experience app. First, select your restaurant and sang your arrival window. Then add all your goodies to your ‘cart’ (or order) your arrival window and then show up at the restaurant when it’s your time to grab your meal.
However, because of the crowds, at times the only arrival window times are hours from when you place your order. That doesn’t help you much when you’re starving and standing in the hot Orlando sun on a summer day.
The workaround? Order earlier in the day, preferably a few hours before you’re ready to eat. Select your pickup time for later that same. If you can, pick an off-hour (aka not right at noon for lunch) and you should be good to go. We have decent luck placing our mobile order around 11 am and planning our pickup around 2 pm.
Then to bridge the gap before the meal we typically will munch on a few items we brought into the park, like LaraBars or some type of fruit, like bananas. We don’t shy away from bigger snacks to keep bellies full and attitudes positive. You’re walking around so much in the Disney parks that you’re going to need more fuel to keep spirits up and keep the hangry monster away.
Using Genie+ To Find Magic Among the Crowds at Disney
Currently, I have a love-hate relationship with Genie+. It has the potential to be super helpful, but right now we found it to be difficult to use- and something that took away from our experience in the parks.
How so? Well, because of the crowds and popularity of Genie+, coupled with the technical challenges that the My Disney Experience seems to experience, Genie+ can be a challenge to use. I am not going to go into the ins and outs of how Genie+ works, that is an entire blog post in itself, but I will say that you need to have a game plan for how you plan to use it.
Before you purchase it (at midnight the day before your park day or prior to your trip if you plan to use it for your entire length of stay), you need to have an idea of what ride passes are on the top of your list. For the most part, minus a few exceptions, you are going to be booking your return time for your rides every two hours. Ideally, this means you log in at 7 am (on your park day and when you can make your first selection) and you book your number 1 ride.
Easy, peasy, and you’re good to go.
Except no, because a pass for your number one ride might not be available until 5pm. Which, doesn’t seem too late, but that means you might find yourself at a park longer than you want (without any midday breaks). It also might mean you find yourself waiting in lines (of other rides) for two hours before you can book another pass*.
(*You can only book your Genie+ return times every two hours from park opening or right after you redeem your first Genie+ pass if it was earlier than two hours from park opening. Anyone else’s head spinning yet? …See why Genie+ deserves its own post!)
Overall, Genie+ has the potential to be a great timesaver. It does however mean more time on your phone. Which, as someone who likes to disconnect when on vacation, it’s not my favorite jam. I’m going to give Genie+ another try, but if I could put in a request, I ask for it to become more like the old Fastpass+ ways. I’d love to be able to book all of my Genie+ passes, at least the first three, before my trip. That way I know what my set plan is and I spend less time messing with the app.
Buy Individual Lightning Lanes
Beyond Genie+ and the select attractions it includes, you also have an option to buy Lightning Lane passes for some rides. This includes big-name rides like Seven Drawfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom and Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood studios, among others.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I already pay for Genie+, on top of my normal park ticket? If you followed the advice above, then you most likely did. Why would you need to buy more ride ‘passes’? Well, if you want to save yourself more time (and at Disney World time is money) you will.
We attempted to ride Seven Drawfs Mine Train without buying the Individual Lightning Lane for the attraction. We got to the attraction early in the morning when the wait was only about 80 minutes and the line was moving steadily. It didn’t seem too crazy and the boys were up for the wait.
The ride, however, had other plans. It kept breaking down and we kept coming to a screeching stop while in line. Every time the ride got back up and running, guess who got to go on first? You guessed it, those guests who had purchased Individual Lightning Lane passes for the ride. Guess whose 80-minute wait turned into 2+ hours? Yup. Ours did.
Now, had we known the posted time was not accurate, due to the ride breaking down (impossible even for Cast Members to know), we probably would not have opted to stand in line. However, realizing that a lot of these super-popular rides do tend to have downtime (I’m looking at your Rise of the Resistance), our experience is probably not a stand-alone case. It leads me to reconsider snagging Lightning Lanes for the more popular rides in the future.
Use a Travel Agent to Help Find Magic Among the Crowds at Disney
For the love of all things magical, do yourself a favor and use a travel agent on your Walt Disney World vacation. Walt Disney World travel agents get paid by Walt Disney World, so their services don’t even cost you anything! As a matter of fact, their services can often save you both time and money! Who doesn’t want that? I know I’m here for that. It is definitely key in helping you find magic among the crowds at Disney.
Disney travel agents often have insider knowledge on how to manage the crowds at Disney World. They know what parks might be a little crazier on which days of the week (this often changes though) and they know what restaurants are going to be harder to snag. Mainly because they are often the ones trying to book these places!
Beyond that, travel agents can help you manage your expectations for your trip. You know you’re going to want to do it all and see it all, but you really can’t, nor should you. A Walt Disney World travel agent will help you sort through your lists of must-dos at Disney, prioritizing the ones that really matter.
Don’t Do It All at Walt Disney World
That leads to the next point, don’t try and do it all at Walt Disney World. The grounds of the Most Magical Place on Earth have so much to offer, that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Yet, it is impossible to do it all. And if you want to continue to find magic among the crowds at Disney, you can’t do it all! There is just too much to do! Instead, pick your must-do things, use a travel agent (as mentioned above), and sort through what is going to be the most important to you and your family.
If you aren’t trying to do it all, you can go with the flow a little more. You are able to aim for your must-dos, but then fill the rest of your time with attractions and activities that are less busy. Don’t overlook the less popular items in the parks, we often have the most fun at those places.
One of our favorite less crowded places to go is always Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom. The best part? The kids can run around and play, not worrying about running into too many people because there are fewer of them!! Plus, Tom Sawyer Island has so much magic of its own! Try and find the caves or the escape tunnel and you’ll know what I mean.
Hotel Days Are Key To Finding Magic Among the Crowds at Walt Disney World
Can’t stress this one enough. If your budget can afford it, stay on Disney property or at least at accommodations that offer pools and other fun activities.
The resorts offer tons of fun activities, that seriously can take a day or more to experience. Not only do all Disney resorts have sweet pools, but some also have extra features like splash areas for littles. Plus, some hotels offer different things from life-sized outdoor games, horse-drawn carriage rides, movies under the stars and so more.
Read all about why resort days are totally worth your time here.
Conclusion to Finding the Magic in the Crowds at Disney
There ya go! Just a few simple ways to keep the magic alive when the crowds at Disney are wild. There is still magic in the parks, it just has to be sought out a little more than before. Hopefully these tips help you manage the crowds and enable you to not feel as overwhelmed as you are going through your park day.
This list is just a short blip of a few of the things you could do, but there are a ton of other things that you could add. Leave a comment below on what else you would do. If you want to add anything regarding how to manage a park day when the crowds are heavy, leave a comment below!