Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World During Spring Break

Spring Break season is here! Trust me...I could feel it while I was visiting the Walt Disney World resort last week.  It was crazy how crowded some of the parks were.  Of course, I was certainly able to have fun, but it was thanks to following a few tips that I've learned throughout the years that allowed me to fully enjoy the parks without wanting to strangle someone. 

The Spring Break season is one of the busiest times of the year for Disney.  It's right behind Christmas Week and Fourth of July.  You know the old saying...when kids are out of school, families are in Walt Disney World.  Add on top of that the fact that it's warm in Florida and people are trying to escape the frigid cold and see something have a recipe for large crowds seeking Disney fun.

With that being said, I thought I'd give you just a few tips on how to get the most out of a Walt Disney World vacation while touring the parks during Spring Break.  Of course, these tips should always be kept in mind during busy periods of the year.  (Not just Spring Break season.)  Hopefully these tips will help you have a great vacation.

  • Arrive at Rope Drop:  I know I'm not one who can usually do it, but if you arrive at rope drop, you get the jump on all the people who are like me who can't make it to the parks early.  Being there at rope drop allows you to be ahead of most of the crowd and see attractions with less of a wait.  I know on the days when I've arrived earlier, I've been more successful in touring. If you can manage it, it really is the way to go when touring during the busiest seasons.  
  • Visit the non-Extra Magic Hour park:  For those who don't know, Disney on-site guests have an added perk of being able to take park in something called Extra Magic Hours.  This is where a select park is open one hour earlier or up to two hours later than scheduled park hours. The schedule is listed on Disney's website.  However, for those who are visiting without Park Hopper tickets in hand, and you want to maximize touring, my best tip is to avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours.  That is unless you have Park Hoppers.  In that case, yes...go to Morning Extra Magic Hours, if you can get up in time, get in a few key attractions, and then leave; head to any other park. Same goes for the Evening offering. If you can visit another park in the day and then that evening, head to the park with Evening Extra Magic Hours, you are golden.  Especially if the Evening Extra Magic Hours last until like 1 a.m.!  If you are staying off-site, then you want to avoid all Extra Magic Hours like the plague.  They will be much busier than the other three parks and since you're staying off-site and attempting to visit in the morning, you'll be well behind the 8 ball. 
  • Have a plan:  it seems stupid.  You are on vacation, right?  But if you plan out a few of the attractions and meals that you want to enjoy, your vacation will run much smoother and you'll be happier.  You don't have to plan out to the minute detail, but just enough to know what you'll be doing for the day.  There's nothing worse than the, "what do you want to do next?" question while examining your map. For more information about effective planning, see the next two points. (PS:  Shameless friends at TouringPlans have this really cool app called Lines that you should totally check out.  It works so well to help plan your day!) 
  • Schedule your first three FastPass+ reservations for early in the day: Last year, once guests used their first three FastPass+ reservations, Disney started allowing guests to visit a FastPass+ Kiosk, located in the parks to make additional FastPass reservations.  While the stock of available FastPass+ attractions goes down as the day marches on, if you're able to use the FastPass+ reservations early, you'll still be able to obtain FastPasses for other attractions, allowing you to experience more overall!  I wouldn't necessarily schedule them for first thing in the morning...maybe starting around 10:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m., because if you get to the park early enough, you should be able to get on most attractions with little wait. And don't use the FastPass+ reservations for parades of fireworks, because you are locking yourself in to not being able to make additional FastPasses during the day.  
  • Book Advanced Dining Reservations early and eat at off peak hours:  If you want to make sure you get to eat at a Table Service location in the park, make sure to make Advanced Dining Reservations ahead of time (up to 180 days in advance of your trip). You can do so by visiting the Disney Dining Page.  Also, no matter where you dine, either counter service or table service, try to eat during off peak hours.  (This means not at noon for lunch and not at 6 pm for dinner.)  The earlier or later you can go, the better chances you have of getting to eat where you want and not encountering huge crowds. 
  • Take a mid-day break:  If you are staying on-site, consider going back to your hotel room and taking a break.  Swim, nap, eat a meal.  Do whatever you can to just unwind a bit.  Plus, while you are relaxing a bit, everyone else will be in the theme parks, clogging up all the rides.   If you don't want to leave, try to take in shows, as the wait times will not be as long and shows will give you the opportunity to sit down in the (usually heavenly air conditioned) theater. 
  • Patience is key:  Yes...there will be a lot of people around you.  And yes, people are rude. You will likely get stepped on by someone who's not paying attention, or get rammed into by a stroller, or have someone try to stand in front of you during a parade, or have someone cut in front of you in line, or leave their trays on a table, or stop in the middle of walking down the path; it's bound to happen.  You are in an extremely busy place, surrounded by people who likely don't know where they're going, and don't know what they are doing.  But, if you attempt to have a little more patience, you will have a much better vacation overall. 
Finally, keep in mind these few notes:  Easter Week will usually see the heaviest crowds usually; if you can, avoid the Magic Kingdom on Easter Day.

Also, don't forget to bring sunscreen.  I just did...and I got burnt and am peeling now because of it.  Trust me...nothing is worse than getting super red on your first day of vacation, especially when you've been pasty all winter and then having to live through the pain. 

Overall, you can have a wonderful time at Walt Disney World...even if you travel during the busiest of seasons, like Spring Break.  Just come prepared and know that you will likely have to go with the flow.  Knowing those things will help save you a lot of headaches.

What are your tips for touring during Spring Break?  Let me know in the comments section or on the Facebook page. 

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