Spring break ranks just behind the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s as the busiest time to visit Walt Disney World and the Orlando theme parks. Because the traditional week off from school is staggered throughout the U.S., it creates a spike in attendance at the theme parks over a period of a few weeks. Hence, we’ve come to think of spring break as a season. This year, the season unofficially begins March 9 and ends April 7, with Easter on March 31 included. The weekends before and after those dates also tend to see higher crowds. (Be sure to check our Crowd Calendar for daily crowd levels and recommended parks).
While there will be lots of frogs in the pond, so to speak, those of you visiting the theme parks during these times need not despair! Here are a few tips that can make a big difference in your visit.
Our single-most important tip is to arrive early, especially during spring break. Arrive at the parks about 45 minutes before rope-drop and ride your favorites in the first hour or two before the lines get really long. Park hopping is not recommended during exceptionally busy times; if a park reaches capacity, you won’t be allowed re-entry. Plus, moving between parks takes up a lot of time and can be tough on the little ones.
Tip #2 – Download our wait-time apps & use FASTPASS wisely.
If you’ve got our apps, then you’ll know what the wait is for any of the rides, which can help save you time!
If the stand-by line for an attraction is less than 30-40 minutes, we recommend not getting a FASTPASS and just waiting in the line. Use FASTPASS for extra busy attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Test Track and Soarin’ at Epcot, Under the Sea and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, and Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Remember, you can get your next FASTPASS as soon as your current “window” begins.
While Disney World offers complimentary transportation, wait times can be long during peak times. Buses (or boats, or monorail cars) can fill quickly, and you may find yourself waiting for a second or third bus before you can board. Having a rental or driving your own car gives you the convenience of going anywhere at any time. (Undercover Tourist conveniently offers car rental through Alamo for a deep savings when you buy your tickets from us.)
Tip #4 – Eat breakfast beforehand & pack your own drinks and snacks.
This will save you time and money. If you rent a car or drive your own, it’s easier to find breakfast foods and eat at your hotel. If you’re on property, most of the resort gift shops have breakfast foods available for purchase that are cheaper than eating a full sit-down breakfast. And when you bring your own snacks and drinks, you can avoid lines — as well as hunger and hydration meltdowns!
Unless you’ve made Advance Dining Reservations, the restaurant crowds can be as busy as the attraction lines. You’ll find the shortest lines during “off peak” hours, for example, before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m. for lunch. Just remember to adjust your breakfast and snack times accordingly.
Oh, and just because you didn’t make an ADR in advance doesn’t mean you can’t while you’re on vacation. Check for openings on the days of your visit for last-minute openings due to other people’s cancellations.
Tip #6 – Review your safety plan.
Crowds + tadpoles (children) = sky-rocketing anxiety levels for parents. Review things like “what happens if we get separated” beforehand. Take a look at Lily’s Safety Strategies for more safety tips.
If you or your little ones are completely frazzled by the afternoon, take a break from the parks completely. Let the kids have a swim or a nap and then decide if a trip in the evening — perhaps to the resort’s entertainment and shopping areas Downtown Disney or Disney’s BoardWalk — might be in order.
Tip #8 – Pack your patience.
The Grinch™ is great as long as he stays in his place at Islands of Adventure. Don’t let him take over your vacation. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and maybe a 5 minute “time-out.” It’s very important to bounce back from a melt-down…yours or your kids’!
Tip #9 – Watch the fireworks from outside the parks.
Magic Kingdom fireworks shows are viewable from the Contemporary Resort, the beaches at Fort Wilderness Resort, Grand Floridian Resort and Polynesian Resort, the Ticket and Transportation Center, and on the boat ride between Magic Kingdom and Fort Wilderness. Epcot fireworks can be seen from the bridge that connects Disney’s BoardWalk and the Yacht & Beach Club. (They’re also viewable on Undercover Tourist’s YouTube channel!)
Tip #10 – Be flexible.
While I love when a great plan comes together, I know when it’s OK to alter that plan and change course. Take occasional “temperature” checks of everyone’s energy levels and attitudes. If you have to cut something short or go to a different park than you planned, don’t sweat it. It’s about quality not quantity.
What is your survival strategy when the parks are crowded?
Hoppy spring break!