When you’re visiting Disney World, time is money. Fortunately, technology – in the form of your smartphone – can help you save time in the parks and at your resort, so you can make the most of your Disney vacation. Standing in lines isn’t fun, so follow these tips to speed up your visit. This post will cover how to use the My Disney Experience app to save time at Disney World.
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Great news: the MyDisneyExperience app is free (Android/iPhone). You’ll need it installed on your phone to make the most of these tips. I’d also highly recommend a portable power pack like this so you can use the app throughout the day and still have battery left to take pictures of the fireworks at the end of the night.
Why should you care how to save time at Disney World?
Sure, you’re on vacation, but time is money when you’re at Disney World and those park tickets aren’t cheap (though you can save a few bucks by buying through an official partner like Undercover Tourist – Find out more of my tips for how to save money at Disney World here.) You’ll want to see and do as much as possible, and your phone with the MyDisneyExperience app is the key to making that happen. You can save yourself a considerable amount of time at Disney World by using the app to check wait times, book FastPasses, skip the order line at counter service restaurants, and more, which will ultimately lead to a more relaxing vacation or a chance to ride more rides.
Book your FastPasses in advance
If you’re a Disney World resort guest or staying at one of the partner Disney Springs hotels, you can book your FastPass+ reservations 60 days ahead of the start of your trip. Everyone else can book 30 days out. Each guest is entitled to book three FastPasses per day in advance. The initial three reservations have to be at the same park. Watch out for the parks with tiers – only the Magic Kingdom doesn’t at this time – as the most popular attractions are grouped into a top tier from which you can only pick one FastPass+ so you’ll need to pick your second and third ones from the lower tier. The most popular attractions can have wait times of 2-3 hours, so showing up without FastPasses can cost you lots of time or cause you to miss out on the rides entirely.
Find out which FastPasses are the most important!
Make additional FastPass+ reservations on the fly
Once you’ve used the initial three FastPasses that you’re allowed to pre-book, you’re able to make additional FastPass+ reservations one at a time. When this system first debuted, you’d have to wait in long lines at designated kiosks, but these days, you can do it right from your app.
The best way to book your next FastPass is while you’re waiting to board the ride you just used your latest FastPass for. There’s typically a few minutes between when you scan your Magic Band or ticket and when you get on the ride, so why not use that time to make your next reservation? On busier days and later in the afternoon, desirable FastPasses start to become scarce, so by booking as soon as the system allows you to, you might be able to snag a better return time or a popular ride that runs out quickly.
Book dining reservations on the mobile app
If you plan to eat at a table service restaurant, it’s a pretty good idea to book as far in advance as possible. Many of the table service restaurants in the parks and restaurants allow walk-ups, but you’ll likely be looking at a long wait, especially during busy seasons. You can begin booking 180 days from the beginning of your resort reservation or 180 days prior to the date if you don’t have a hotel booked. Rather than wait for a table for an hour, just book ahead of time and you’ll be seated after just a few minutes. You can book your Disney World dining reservations online or using the MyDisneyExperience app. You can also modify and cancel reservations on the fly using the app, though beware of the fact that restaurants charge a $10/person cancellation fee if you do it within 24 hours of your seating time.
Mobile ordering for quick service restaurants at Disney World
This feature is amazing, especially on crowded days at peak dining times. Several of the quick service restaurants at Disney World now allow mobile ordering, which can save you loads of time. You can place your order ahead of time, and then when you’re ready to pick up the food, just indicate that you’ve arrived on the app and you can walk right up to the counter to grab your meal without waiting in the long lines. Go ahead and feel superior – you earned it, you savvy traveler you. One day when we were park-hopping from Hollywood Studios to Animal Kingdom, we placed our order on the bus and then picked it up from Flame Tree BBQ while dozens and dozens of people waited in a lengthy line. There was a Cast Member there trying to convince people to use the mobile ordering to speed up their wait time, but not a lot of takers for reasons I don’t understand.
In order to use mobile ordering, make sure you have the most recent version of the Disney World app – I had to download an update on the fly even though the version I had on my phone was only downloaded about a month and a half before my visit, so don’t make my mistake.
Check in without visiting the front desk
If you’re staying on property at a Disney World hotel, you get free Magic Bands for your party. These bands serve as your room keys, meaning that you don’t have to pick anything up from the front desk when you arrive. Prior to leaving, you can fill in check in information on the Disney World website and your room will be assigned to you on the day of your arrival. You can check the MyDisneyExperience app for your room number, and can also opt in for a text message telling you where you’re staying. Once you get to the hotel, you can walk straight past the line of people waiting for assistance at the front desk and head directly to your room. We got off of the Magical Express at almost midnight on my last trip and being able to just walk right through the lobby and over to our room felt amazing.
If you love the look of this room as much as we did, check out my review and tips from our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Maps with current wait times
The easiest way to check wait times for rides at Disney World is using the MyDisneyExperience app. Rather than walking all the way across the park to see what the line for Splash Mountain looks like, just pull out your phone and check the app. I’ve found the posted wait times to be fairly accurate, so you can use this knowledge to plan out your route and choose your next attractions.
Have an hour to kill before your dining reservation? Check the app and look for something with a wait time half an hour or less and head there. It’ll save you from wandering aimlessly and checking on rides with waits that are way too long.
Find characters and PhotoPass photographers using the app
You can see all current character meet & greets on the MyDisneyExperience app so it’s easy to find when your favorite character is available for photographs and autographs. You can also locate where all of the active PhotoPass photographers in the park are so you can pick the perfect spot for that family photo you’ve been trying to snag without wandering aimlessly through the park. Once you have your pictures taken and scan your MagicBand, you should be able to view those photos within a half hour so you can take a look at them and make sure that they’re everything you expected.
Menus for all of the restaurants
Sometimes deciding where to eat can be a difficult task at Disney World, and having menus for every dining establishment in the parks and resorts at your fingertips can come in handy. It’d be a shame to walk all the way across the park to find out that Satu’li Canteen doesn’t have anything your picky eater is willing to try, so why not check the menu beforehand? Knowing that in advance will allow you to swing by Pizzafari on the way there or pick a different restaurant for everyone. It’s also a great time-saver to know what you want to order before you get to a restaurant and using the MyDisneyExperience app, everyone can pick their meals and drinks while they’re waiting in line for a ride or on the bus.
Pick up and locate souvenirs without setting foot in a store
Using the Shop Disney Parks app (Android/iPhone), you can find out where specific items are located without having to search every souvenir store on property. Looking for that special spirit jersey in a size Medium? Scan its barcode and you can see exactly where it’s in stock using the app so you can head straight there to pick it up for yourself or place an order right from your phone. You can even choose to have your item delivered to your home (they deliver to all 50 US states) or to your resort hotel, which is amazing because you can buy everything you want and not have to lug it around the parks.
What are your favorite time-saving tips for Disney World?
See more great Disney World tips here:
- How to Save Money at Disney World
- What to Pack for a Disney World Vacation
- The Most Important FastPass+ at Every Disney World Park
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World
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