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For most families, a trip to Disney is a once-in-a-lifetime sorta thing, so when you do it you really wanna do it right. Making your holiday the best it can be is literally what we do here at Netflights, so to help take the pressure out of the planning, we’ve rounded up 12 Disney World family hacks.

Have even more Disney questions? Our Disney hub is absolutely chocka with info.

1. Crowd calendars are your friends

A father holds his two daughters and smiles, Magic Kingdom park at Disney in the background. Night.

The first on our list of Disney World family hacks is one you should be doing when your Disney trip is still a twinkle in the eye. Disney World is always pretty busy. However, some times are less busy than others. The best thing you can do to get your trip off to the best start is to have a look at some of the crowd calendars available (just have a quick Google for one!), because though we’d all love to be jetting off outside of the school holidays, sometimes you just have to go with the herd.

Having a look at a calendar will give you a rough idea of what the crowds will be like at any given time throughout the year.

What time of year is Disney World least crowded?

There’s no hard and fast answer to this, because lots of different things can affect it – new ride opening, special events, and so on. But there are some general rule of thumbs you can follow to help narrow it down. For example, it’s a pretty safe bet that if the kids are off school, then they’ll be at Disney World. So travelling outside any of these times is likely to see smaller crowds, for starters.

High season tends to be March to April and June to August, the shoulder season runs from December to February, as well as the month of May, and low season window is from September to November.

2. Stay at a Disney Resort for easy access to the parks

There’s loads of places to stay in the wider Orlando area that could save you a lot of money on accommodation costs, but you really can’t beat staying on site in one of the Disney resorts for the sheer level of convenience that they offer in spades. That, and they’re also just really, really cool places to stay in. And don’t think you have to shell out either!

Disney resorts come in three categories – Value, Moderate and Deluxe. So staying on site doesn’t mean it has to cost a lot. Each resort is fully themed, down to each individual bedroom, and depending on how much you’re willing to spend you’ll have food court dining options all the way to multiple sit down service venues.

But the best thing about the resorts? The proximity to those shiny golden gates that’ll take you into the parks, duh!!! Being close to the parks means more time spent having fun and less time traipsing home half asleep at the end of the day, plus you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours.

3. Download the app

We know, we know! There’s never enough space in your phone for all the apps you need, but make space for this one, seriously. The My Disney Experience App is full of handy features, from Disney Genie (more on that below!) and pre-ordering your food in park, to maps, attraction wait times and virtual queues.

One of the easiest Disney World family hacks, if anything on this will make your trip smooth sailing, it’s this!

4. Bring your own snacks into the parks

We know that Disney has some of the best snacks on the planet – er, hello Cheshire Cat Tails, Kringle Kringle Holiday Cookies and DOLE WHIP – but we also know that noshing on all that goodness all day long adds up pretty quick! The good news is, unlike your local cinema, Disney is fairly lax about what you can bring into the park food wise. As long as it’s not in a glass container or really pungent in smell (can they make that a rule at the cinema too?) then pretty much anything goes.

An easy way to save some money (and sugar consumption.)

5. When you arrive, turn left

Cinderella's Castle rises into a blue sky at the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, Florida.

Most people when entering the parks immediately turn right – any psychologists want to chip in and tell us why? We’re all, ahem, ears – so instead of following the crowds, try going against them by making a left. The idea is that by working counter-clockwise, you’ll actually find it easier and less stressful navigating the parks and – this is the important bit – lines for the rides should theoretically be shorter! Word has it that this is one of the big tips Disney folks give when leading people on their extra fancy VIP tours.

For example – at Magic Kingdom, people tend to be naturally drawn in the direction of Tomorrowland for rides like Hyperspace Mountain, but if you veer left instead in the direction of Adventureland and Frontierland you’ll hit all the good stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Cruise before most people even get close to that side of the park.

This Disney World family hacks goes missed by most – don’t be like those!

6. Dude, where’s my pram?

You know when you’re sat on the plane and you can see 3 identical black suitcase in the overhead bins and you’re trying to remember which one is actually yours? Prams at Disney are the same.

You’ll find pram parks all over the place, especially outside the rides. However, getting off a ride and trying to relocate your buggy amongst the masses can all get a bit too similar to leaving the supermarket and forgetting where you’ve parked your car.

That’s why we 100% recommend jazzing your pram up a bit with a brightly coloured scarf, towel, or even a balloon. You think you know your pram. A day at Disney will teach you otherwise.

7. Make use of Guest Relations

As hard as you try, at some point you’ll succumb to the pleading of your children and indulge them in a Disney souvenir (or two, or three…). But one thing you reaaaally don’t want to be doing is dragging your purchases across the parks all day. Lucky for you, you don’t have to.

You can have all your purchases sent directly to your resort if you’re staying on property (ooo, swish!), but even if you’re staying outside of the parks themselves you can still have them sent to the front of the park where’ll they’ll be kept by Guest Services until you’re ready to pick them up at the end of the day. Genius!

Where are Guest Relations located?

You’ll find Guest Relations in every park at Disney World, including the two waterparks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. You can also find them at Disney Springs and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

8. Don’t make too many reservations

We think this nifty tip, which we learned from Hayley over at Sparkles & Stretchmarks, is great.

If it’s your first (or even second or third) time at Disney, it can be oh-so-tempting to cram as many dining reservations in as you can during your trip. It’s the worst kind of FOMO around. With so many cool restaurants and Character Dining opportunities it seems almost impossible not to book a slot at every one. But be strong and narrow it down to your absolute must-visits – like Hayley experienced on her recent trip to Disney with her family, having too many reservations just means you end up rushing around the parks to try and fit them in, and that ain’t fun.

Plus, she points out another important thing to make note of when planning your meals – if you fail to show up for a dining reservation you’ll get charged, so don’t think you can just make reservations willy-nilly and then just rock up to the ones you can manage to make work, because it’ll cost ya – literally.

9. Celebrating a special occasion? There’s a badge for that

A family pose with Pluto in EPCOT at Walt Disney World, Florida.

So this tip doesn’t really make your trip more do-able, but it will make it extra good. If someone in your family happens to be celebrating a special occasion whilst you’re on holiday, then pop into a park’s Guest Relations and pick up a badge. They have them for all sorts of things – your first visit, your birthday, your engagement… If you have something super specific to celebrate, then you can grab a generic badge and then customise it.

This free service means that characters will give you extra, personalised shout outs throughout your trip – a totally priceless moment that is literally priceless. Plus, the ‘First Time’ badges can be helpful when it comes to navigating the parks – cast members will be alerted straight away that you might need a little extra help.

10. Don’t forget that portable charger

Look, it’s gonna happen. With all that photo taking, you checking the app about a thousand times, and giving your phone to the kids to amuse them in line, your phone will most likely run out of juice during the day. So if you want to be mega efficient and stick to your schedule, whack a portable phone charger in your bag so you can recharge as you go.

But if you don’t have one or forget to bring it (or, worst case scenario, the portable charger runs out of juice!) then all is not lost! Across all the parks you’ll find phone charging kiosks, but this does mean you’ll have to stop and wait for a bit. On the other hand, if you reckon you can go without it for a couple of hours, drop it off at Guest Relations to charge and come back for it later.

11. Disney Genie is, er, genius

The best thing since sliced bread? This just might be! Disney Genie is a little piece of wonder that sits in your phone, aka another mega feature of the My Disney Experience app that’ll help you with just about anything to do with your Disney trip. One of the best things is that it will give you all sorts of tips on how to cut down line waiting time, but if you plump for the paid service, Genie+, your trip will be levelled up.

Starting at $15 per day (this goes up depending on what time of year you’re visiting), Genie+ is a service that basically acts as the new version of Disney FastPasses. For each day you pay for, you’ll be able to skip the lines on your chosen attractions and use the much quicker Lightning Lanes. You can pick one ride every two hours, but spots are snapped up – ahem – lightning fast, so you’ll have to be speedy to nab ’em! Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, right?

12. Scope out the best photo spots beforehand

For a lot of families, a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, so this really is a moment to take alllll the photos. No one wants to come home and realise that the only footage of the trip they’ve got is some blurry photos and shaky videos! So do the prep beforehand and map out where you wanna get some iconic shots. Main Street, USA? Tick. Cinderella’s Castle? TICK!

Deciding these sorts of things can be stressful when you’re right there in the park, but do it before you go and you’re guaranteed to have the best looking mantlepiece in the neighbourhood.

Feeling prepared? We’ve got loads of Disney holidays waiting for you.

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