We get it. Nothing will take away the magic of Disney parks faster than the wait times and crowds. Luckily for you, we have all the tips to avoid Disney World and Disneyland crowds that’ll have you on rides instead of in lines.
We’ll list all the best Disney crowd calendars, what the deal is with the new Lightning Lanes and Disney Genie, and when you should eat.
Plus, we have so many other Disney vacation hacks that can save you time and money.
1. Check Disney Crowd Calendars before you buy your tickets.
The best way to know when the least amount of people is in the park is through crowd calendars. There are several online, but here are a few of our favorites:
- WDW Prep School: Provides an explanation for each season and why certain dates are optimal for your Walt Disney World vacation.
- Is It Packed: Let’s you know the day-by-day estimate of the number of people in the park. It also gives you recommendations for the best times to go into the park.
- Undercover Tourist: Not only gives you the best days to go into the park, but it also lets you know the events that are going on in each park.
2. Generally speaking, January and September have the best prices and lightest crowds.
While the crowd calendars are handy for specific days, if you’re generally looking for the least-crowded days of the year, you’ll want to plan your Disney parks trip for January (except for MLK weekend) and September (except for Labor Day weekend).
Plus, these are the times where “Value” tickets are sold, so you could save $20 by booking your Disney vacation during this time.
3. Eat at odd times to get on the rides without the lines.
We found that if you eat lunch between 10 – 11 a.m. or 2 – 3 p.m., you’ll be able to ride with shorter wait times while most people are eating lunch.
4. Lightning Lanes are the new FastPass (except they’re not free anymore).
As of Dec. 8, 2021, Disney has discontinued the free FastPass system in favor of the fee-based Lightning Lanes. Here’s how they work:
First, you need to download the Disney World or Disneyland app and set up Disney Genie, their free new itinerary program. Then, once you’re in the park, you can buy a Lightning Lane pass, which will get you into the faster line.
If you pay for Disney’s Genie+ service, you’ll get one-day access to almost all of the Lightning Lanes in the park (some rides require you to buy a separate individual Lightning Lanes pass, like WEB Slingers in California Adventure). You reserve a Lightning Lane time slot, and once you’ve checked in with your mobile device, you’re able to book another one. But you’re only able to use the Lightning Lane once per ride per day.
The Genie+ pass costs $20/day per person, and individual Lightning Lane passes cost $7-$20 per person, per ride, depending on the season.
5. Get into the parks early by making a breakfast reservation.
If you make a breakfast reservation before the parks open, you’ll be able to get in 40 minutes earlier than anyone else. You’ll have to make the reservation months before you get into the park, so make sure to book it as soon as possible.
6. Don’t go to the parks on Magic Hour days.
Magic Hours are given to guests who stay at Disney park hotels. They give guests an extra hour before opening or after closing the park, but don’t be fooled. It also increases the park’s attendance, which makes it more crowded.
For example, if Disneyland’s Magic Hours is on Monday, we suggest going to California Adventure instead for shorter wait times.
To find out when Magic Hours are happening, check the Disney park calendar, and it’ll let you know which parks are offering them on which days.
Note: Magic Hours have been suspended indefinitely due to Covid-19.
7. Get to the parks about an hour before they open for the ‘Rope Drop.’
Disney parks officially open at 8 a.m., but if you get to the parks an hour early, they let guests into the park before the opening time. They even make it into a little show called the “Rope Drop.”
The times that they let people into the parks depend on the Cast Members, so we’ve heard reports of them opening an hour to 30 minutes early.
8. Skip the food lines; order ahead by using the parks’ apps.
You can order all your food ahead of time (and pay!) via the park’s app. This way, you can skip long lines for your turkey legs and Dole Whips. All you have to do is order the food, check in when you’ve arrived during your dining window, and pick it up from the counter.
9. Get in line for rides during the nightly fireworks show.
Every night at the Disney parks, there is a fireworks display. If you don’t mind missing the fireworks, this is prime time to head over to your favorite ride. Lines are a lot shorter during the displays since other people are waiting to watch the fireworks.
10. Plan out your day with Disney Genie.
Disney Genie plans your entire day for you based on your preferences and accounts for current wait times and availability throughout the day. If you keep to the schedule, you should have the most optimized time at Disney. Plus, the best part is that it’s a free service.