If you’re planning a Disney World spring break or other holiday trip, you’ll need to understand the best ways to manage Disney World Crowds. We’ve got the tips and advice you’ll need to make the most of your visit.
Taking a Disney World Vacation During Peak Season Holidays
You’ve booked your Disney vacation package or reserved your resort and purchased your Disney theme park tickets. You’ve made your park reservations, your airfare has been set for months and you’ve got a running checklist in your head of all of the things you can’t afford to forget when packing.
You’re excited. The kids are ecstatic, and even your spouse has begun to count down the days. That’s when your neighbor, friend or co-worker tells you how crowded Disney World is during school breaks. They probably even have a neighbor, friend or relative who traveled during a similar time period and barely lived to survive the Disney World crowds.
We’ve been there. Avoiding crowds used to be my sole aim when planning a Disney World vacation. I’d scour Disney World crowd calendars and discussion boards searching for that elusive stretch of days when the vast majority of the Disney World-going public would be at home.
Then, the kids grew up, hit high school and it was no longer feasible to pull them out of classes to take a vacation. We had to take Spring Break trips to Disney and make the best of it.
So over the years, we’ve developed a plan of attack to brave the Disney World crowds and counteract the extra time we spend in line. Believe it or not, we still have a great time.
The strategy goes something like this:
1. Wake up Early
Waking up early is essential to making the most of your day when traveling to Disney World during spring break or other holidays. If the park opens at 8:00 am, we plan to arrive no later than 7:00.
Under current protocol, Disney has been letting guests into the parks at least a half hour before the published opening time. You can’t queue for rides and attractions. In fact, cast members usually hold back early arrivals at various entry points throughout the parks.
What arriving early does do is put us inside and near the first attraction ahead of the major throng of guests that will hit the gates at the published time. Sometimes, we’ve experienced a few attractions with little to no wait before the majority of the guests have made it through the turnstiles.
This approach is key to getting on those ultra-popular rides such as Flight of Passage or 7 Dwarves Mine Train without Genie+.
2. Use Genie+
On any day, Genie+ can be your friend. When doing Spring Break or holidays at Disney, Genie+ may be the difference between experiencing everything on your list and missing some attractions. This special service allows you to skip the regular queue in favor of a much shorter line. The secret is, you have to schedule your ride time in advance and then arrive during your scheduled one-hour window.
Guests are allowed to book one Genie+ reservation beginning at 7:00 am on the day of their visit, if they are staying at a Disney World or Disney Springs resort. You may then book a second reservation beginning at 11:00 and every two hours thereafter, or as soon as you use one of your current Genie+ reservations.
Guests staying at other resorts may begin booking Genie+ beginning at 9:00 and every two hours thereafter, or as soon as they utilize an existing reservation.
For those of you doing Disney World on a budget and staying at an offsite resort, that means you’ll most likely miss out on snagging a Genie+ for one of the more popular rides, such as Space Mountain. However, the biggest headliner attractions are included in Disney’s Individual Lightning Lane service, which means you can pay a fee to reserve a ride time in advance. You’ll be admitted to the ride through the expedited Lightning Lane queue, allowing you to save time on rides that can stack up wait times of 2 hours or more.
Guests may book up to 2 Individual Lightning Lane reservations in a day.
3. Schedule Strategically to Beat the Disney World Crowds
Try to experience as many of the more popular attractions as you can earlier in the day. Disney World crowds build throughout the morning and peak around 11:00. By experiencing as much as you can before then, you’ll miss the longest of the lines.
I find the My Disney Experience app to be a great aid even before I leave for my Disney World vacation. I usually check the app three or four times a day during the week before my trip. This gives me an idea of which rides have the highest wait times and when lines peak or die off. I can use this information when deciding which rides to visit when.
4. Eat at Off-Times and Order Ahead
If you eat at traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner times, you’ll encounter much longer lines. Lines take up time that could be spent experiencing the park attractions, so it’s best to avoid them when you can.
We’ve found Disney World crowds for lunch begin to build around 11:30 and peak between noon and 1:00. They dwindle between 1:00 and 1:30 and are practically non-existent by 2:00.
A similar schedule happens with dinner. Crowds begin to start trickling in around 4:30 pm. While they peak between 5:00 and 6:30 pm, some restaurants will remain full until 8:00 pm. This is particularly true for table service eateries.
Order Ahead at Counter Service Restaurants
Ordering ahead using Mobile ordering is another great time saver during your Disney World spring break or holiday trip. Simply order your food from the My Disney Experience app while waiting in line for a ride. When you’re ready to eat, open the app again and let the restaurant know you are there to pick up your food.
At this point, go ahead and find a table. You’ll receive a text when your food is ready to be picked up. And since you ordered ahead, you’ll have a special location to do so, allowing you to skip any lines waiting to place an order.
Where table-service restaurants are concerned, you’ll want to make advanced dining reservations through the Disney World website. With the popularity of many Disney restaurants, you may find it difficult to get into most favored sit-down restaurants if you wait until you’re hungry. This is particularly true for character meals, some of which can book months in advance.
5. Consider Taking a Break
One thing we found vital to surviving Disney World crowds during spring break or other holidays was taking an afternoon rest. By arriving early, we were able to accomplish a lot of what we wanted to do by shortly after lunch. Taking a break in the afternoon allowed us to rest up a bit, either poolside or in the room, and grab a snack, before heading back into the parks again around dinner time.
Disney contracts and expands their operating hours depending up on crowd levels, so you can expect parks to close later during peak travel times. During spring break one year, some parks were open until midnight on certain nights. The same holds true during the wildly popular Christmas break. You’ll find that Disney World crowds dwindle as the evening wears on.
6. Early Theme Park Entry Puts You Ahead of Disney World Crowds During Holidays
If you are a guest at a Disney resort, plan to take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry when you can. This resort perk allows guests of Disney hotels to enter parks a half an hour earlierr than day guests or those staying offsite.
To use this perk to its fullest advantage, plan to be at the turnstiles at least an hour before the scheduled time for Early Theme Park Entry. Also, be sure to look for the signs once you enter the turnstiles. You’ll notice a number of guests just milling about. These are people that don’t have access to early entry but want to be in the park ahead of the regular opening crowds.
Guests who are eligible for Early Theme Park Entry will need to scan their MagicBand, park ticket or mobile device at a special checkpoint before being admitted to the park. Look for this area when you enter.
Above All, Don’t Worry About Disney World Crowds During Spring Break or Other Holidays
Overall, people tend to make a big deal about Disney World crowd levels. If you’ve scheduled your trip to coincide with a spring break or other holiday travel period, don’t panic. It’s still possible to have a good time. Just relax and follow our tips.
If you’re still planning your Disney World spring break or other holiday adventure, consider brushing up on the available Disney World transportation options to get you from your resort to the parks. We even have a downloadable guide to take with you.