Share on Facebook

23 Secrets Disney Employees Won’t Tell You

Disney cast members spill their best insider secrets about the Happiest Place on Earth!

Sleeping Beauty Castle, front crowd, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California, USAMarc Rasmus/Shutterstock

We’re cast members—not employees

At Disney, every employee is called a cast member because every interaction and experience is a show at Disney. As for the visitors, we call them guests. “Guests are not considered ‘customers’ because we are welcoming you into this immersive experience and fantasy,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. You may even hear us occasionally call a visitor a “real guest”—it’s an unofficial code word we use for rude guests. This is the real reason Disney tickets are so expensive.

France Views Seine Et Marne Euro Disney Young Child Enjoying Breakfast With Chipmunk At Eurodisney Disneyland Paris Is A Holiday And Recreation Resort In Marne-la-vallae A New Town In The Eastern Suburbs Of Paris France. The Complex Is Located 32 Km (20 Mi) From The Centre Of Paris And Lies For The Most Part Within The Commune Of Chessy Seine-et-marne. Disneyland Paris Is Composed Of Two Theme Parks A Retail Dining And Entertainment District And Seven Disney-owned Hotels. Operating Since 12 April 1992 It Was The Second Disney Resort To Open Outside The United States (following Tokyo Disney Resort) And The First To Be Owned And Operated By Disney. Disneyland Paris Is Operated By French Company Euro Disney S.c.a. A Public Company Of Which 39.78 Percent Of Its Stock Is Held By The Walt Disney Company 10 Percent By The Saudi Prince Alwaleed And 50.22 Percent By Other Shareholders. The Senior Leader At The Resort Is Chairman And Ceo Philippe Gas. The Complex Was A Subject Of Controversy During The Periods Of Negotiation And Construction In The Late 1980s And Early '90s When A Number Of Prominent French Figures Voiced Their Opposition And Protests Were Held By French Labour Unions And Others. A Further Setback Followed The Opening Of The Resort As Park Attendance Hotel Occupancy And Revenues Fell Below Projections. The Complex Was Renamed From Euro Disney Resort To Disneyland Paris In 1994. In July 1995 The Company Saw Its First Quarterly Profit.David Crump/Shutterstock

Eat breakfast with the Disney characters

Start your morning off right eating breakfast with a princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table or Winnie the Pooh at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. The prices for character-dining experiences can range anywhere from $20 to $60 per adult, but breakfast typically falls on the lower end of the price spectrum than dinner. And don’t worry about missing out on your favorite characters because the characters usually remain the same no matter what time you go! When hanging with cast members, make sure to avoid these rude behaviors.

Disneyland Railroad Station, front Mickey mouse made out of flowers, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California, USAPointingShutterstock(2)

Walt Disney inspired the ‘Disney point’

As cast members, we are taught to properly point by placing our index and middle finger together (aka the ‘Disney point’). We are told that pointing with your index finger may be misconstrued as rude to some guests. But the real reason for this specialized finger point lies within Walt Disney. The story goes that old photos used to show Disney pointing to various attractions with a cigarette between his two fingers. But the company reportedly airbrushed the cigarette out of his fingers in pictures when the company wanted to dissociate itself from smoking. Now, the pictures just look like Disney always pointed people in the right direction using his two fingers. Here are 12 more etiquette rules that every Disney employee must follow.

DISNEYLAND, PARIS - NOVEMBER 22, 2015: Disneyland Park in Paris, France. Disney is the first entertainment group in the world in 2012.aureliefrance/Shutterstock

Custodians are the go-to cast members for directions

No one knows how to get somewhere in the park better than a custodial cast member. Disney has a very strict policy that prohibits any of us from wandering away from our post. But custodians are the exception to the rule because they need to move freely around the park to maintain order and cleanliness. “If you don’t understand the directions a cast member gives you, a custodian can walk and talk with you,” says a former Disney World College Program participant. “An attractions, merchandise, or food cart cast member doesn’t have the same freedom to go around with you.” All you need to do is look for the man or woman dressed up in a pristine white jumpsuit.

New York, NY, USA - September 18, 2016: Beauty and The Beast characters pose for a photo at the 'Beauty and The Beast' 25th Anniversary Screening at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, ManhattanSam Aronov/Shutterstock

You can only meet the Beast in one place

Unfortunately, you won’t ever see the Beast step foot in any park. Sorry, Beauty and the Beast fans! In fact, the only place you can catch him is at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during dinnertime. But we’ve heard that dinner reservations go fast and you may have to book a table as early as 180 days in advance!

ODESSA, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 5, 2014: Close up of happy cheerful family, mother and little daughter in Disney Daisy Duck pullover playing in park next to fountain, mom is holding small girl upside downIB photo/Shutterstock

Order off the kids’ menu

Don’t let the words “9 years and younger” discourage you from ordering off the kids’ menu at a fast food joint in Disney. “I used to get a kid’s meal on my lunch break,” says a former Disney World guest relations cast member. “It’s a good deal because the food is better for you, you get snack options, and you don’t need this quadruple serving of food.” You can buy a kid’s meal for about half the price of a regular meal. But keep in mind that table-service restaurants are typically less lenient about letting adults eat like a kid.

Performers take part in a parade at the Disney Resort in Shanghai, China, on the eve of its grand opening. The debut of Shanghai Disneyland offers Walt Disney Co. "incredible potential" for boosting its brand in the world's most populous market, Disney's chief executive said Wednesday ahead of Thursday's grand opening for the $5.5 billion parkNg Han Guan/Shutterstock

We use code words for everything

We use secret lingo to alert our colleagues about ride difficulties, gross accidents, and other mishaps. For example, a “Code P” means someone accidentally urinated in the park and a “Code V” stands for vomit. We even make up our own silly codes sometimes like “405 in Line 2” which means there’s someone attractive standing in line.  Of course, codes of this nature are not Disney-approved in any park. Make sure you know the three words Disney cast members are never allowed to say.

Mickey Mouse giving a girl his autograph, Disneyworld, Disney World, Orlando, Florida, USAimageBROKER/Shutterstock

Get a character’s autograph first thing in the morning

Mornings are the best time to get up close and personal with your favorite Disney character before you spend all day standing in line. Not only will you get your autograph fast, but you may also be rewarded for being the first fan to arrive. “I once saw Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter take a little boy on the teacup ride with them,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. “There’s no other time you would see that.” Unfortunately, not every Disney character goes on a ride with the first person of the day, but they may strike a special pose with you!

Disney AppVia My Disney Experience, Shutterstock

Download the Disney app

The app makes it easy to plan your day at Disney. Many of us download the My Disney Experience (for Walt Disney World) or Disneyland apps to navigate the parks, find times and meeting places for character photo-ops, and check ride wait times and show schedules.

Visitors ride the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Disney reports quarterly financial resultsJae C. Hong/Shutterstock

Don’t be deceived by long wait times for a ride

“The ride line waiting times are kind of like the stock market,” says a former quick-service cast member at Disney World. “When it gets high, it’ll likely see a significant drop.” She frequently checks the ride wait times on the Disney app to map out which ride to head to next. For instance, a 200-minute wait for a ride often scares people away so it drops quicker than a more consistent time where everyone is constantly hopping in line. On the other hand, low wait times may work against you, especially if you’re far away from a ride, because everyone else will also be rushing over to get in line. Then, by the time you arrive, the wait will be even longer than before. Remember that everyone on the Disney app sees the same information, so keep that on your radar when calculating your next move. Time passes by when you’re having fun—our Disney trivia will keep you entertained until it’s your turn.

MICKEY MOUSE ON FLOAT DURING THE CELEBRATIONSPaul Brown/Shutterstock

Think before you ask a question

There is no such thing as a “dumb” question, but at Disney, we have been asked a few notable ones. The most common one we get asked is, “What time is the 3:00 parade?” “One guest told me they couldn’t find Cinderella’s Castle,” said a former guest relations cast member at Disney World. “I sarcastically said, ‘Did they move it on me?’ We walked outside and the castle was right there at the end of the street.” Make sure you never bring anything from this list of 15 banned things from Disney parks.

Walt Disney World Resort. Disney MGM Studios. Dopey, a dwarf from Cinderella during the Stars and Motor Cars Parade. Orlando Florida USAEye Ubiquitous/Shutterstock

Don’t lie to us to get free stuff

Lying like Pinocchio never bodes well in Disney, but some Disney guests have stooped to some low levels in an effort to score free perks. “One time a woman told my manager that I said her face looked like a Halloween mask,” says a former guest relations cast member at Disney World. “There were always people making up things like that to get something for free.”

Disney Christmas Celebration in front of Central World shopping mall on December 14, 2015 in Bangkok. ThaillandAfriramPOE/Shutterstock

Halloween and Christmas Party tickets are a bargain

If you book in advance, the tickets for Mickey’s Halloween Party (offered at both Disneyland and Disney World) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (only offered at Magic Kingdom) tend to be cheaper than day pass tickets by up to $20. “My favorite thing in Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Halloween Party,” says a former Disney World College Program participant. “The coolest thing is you’ll never see the special Halloween fireworks or Halloween show outside of the exclusive Halloween party.” Plus, the earlier you go, the more money you save because the parties are thrown for several weeks leading up to Halloween or Christmas. Don’t miss out on how to spend the holidays in Disney World while beating the crowds.

MOUSE An actor dressed as Mickey Mouse pats Michael Thramann, 3, of Avon, Conn., on the head before the start of a Disney Corp. stockholders meeting in Hartford, Conn., . Michael is held by his father, Bill Thramann, who was wearing a Donald Duck hat. At left an actress dressed as Minnie Mouse signs an autograph. Actors dressed as Disney characteres were on hand to greet Disney stockholders as they arrived for the meetingBOB CHILD/Shutterstock

Mind your manners

We deal with irate and irrational guests on a daily basis. It’s unfortunately the nature of the beast, no pun intended, which is why being kind may pay off for you. One former cast member gave a little girl and her father free ice cream and balloons because the little girl sweetly said her dad’s breath smelled like Skittles. “The nicer you are, the more people will want to listen to you and figure out a solution for you,” says a former guest relations cast member at Disney World.

Orlando, FL, USA July 22, 2011 A monorail passes in front of Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World in Orlando, FloridaJames Kirkikis/Shutterstock

Catch rare character appearances at EPCOT

Disney characters sometimes train at the International Gateway in EPCOT located between the United Kingdom Pavilion and France Pavilion. “It’s a cool way to meet characters you wouldn’t get to see normally,” says Amanda, a former seasonal cast member at Disney World. “I saw Flynn Rider once. He usually only comes out for the Halloween or Christmas parties.” Another, surprisingly, lesser-known character hang out is in EPCOT’s Character Spot where you can meet Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy. Plus, you don’t have to stand outside under the beating sun for an autograph or picture because the Character Spot is inside.

An Actor Clad As Cartoon Characters Mickey Mouse ( L) and Minnie Mouse Gesture at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong China 12 September 2010 on the Day to Mark the 5th Anniversary Celebration Benefited From the Fast Economic Growth the Number of Visitors Expected to 5 Million in 2009-10 From 4 57 Million in 2008-09 Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Managing Director Andrew Kam Said to the Press Hong Kong Disneyland a Joint Venture Between the Us Walt Disney Co and Hong Kong Government China Hong KongYm Yik/Shutterstock

You’ll never see two of the same characters at once

The last thing Disney wants to do is ruin the magic of the theme park. Each and every character has a set time throughout the day to prevent two Mickeys from showing up at once. “Disney wants to maintain the integrity of its characters and keep that magic alive,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. Check out these secret spots people don’t know about in Disney parks.

WALT DISNEY STATUE AND CINDERELLA'S CASTLE IN THE MAGIC KINGDOMCHARLES SYKES/Shutterstock

Go to guest relations in the morning for the most accurate information

“If you go before noon, they’re going to be super helpful because you get the full-time cast members who have been around the longest,” says a former Disney World College Program participant. “Later in the day, you typically get the college students who are either not as knowledgeable or haven’t been there as long to know the park well enough.”

Sleeping Beauty Castle by night, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California, USAMarc Rasmus/Shutterstock

Nighttime is prime time for Disney visits

The lines for rides typically die down at night, especially during the fireworks display. We always take advantage of visiting the park at night because of cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. Here are the cheapest and most expensive times to visit Disney World throughout the year.

Disney's 'Happiness is Here Parade' Rolls Past Cheering Crowds at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu Near Tokyo Japan 11 April 2013 Disney is Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Opening of Tokyo Disneyland with Special Events and a Parade That Will Run From 15 April 2013 Until 20 March 2014 Some 130 Performers Representing 55 Caracters Participate in the Parade According to Media Reports Tokyo Disney Resort Including Tokyo Disneyland Tokyo Disneysea Park and Disney Hotels Attracted a Record High of 27 5 Million Visitors in the Fiscal Year 2012 Japan UrayasuFranck Robichon/Shutterstock

Beat the crowds with Extra Magic Hours

Guests staying in select Disney Resorts can access any theme park before or after operating hours with Extra Magic Hours. The Magic Hours vary by day, time, and theme park, but they typically occur anywhere between the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. “I’ve never had to wait longer than 15 minutes to get on a ride during Extra Magic Hours,” says a former Disney World College Program participant.

Disney Characters (l-r) Mickey Mouse Goofy and Minnie Come On the Stage at the Finale of the Celebration Planned For the 50th Anniversary of the Disneyland Theme Park in Anaheim California On Wednesday 05 May 2004 Disney Ceo Michael Eisner Named Julie Andrews Special Disneyland Ambassador For the 50th Anniversary Disneyland Opened On July 17 1955Armando Arorizo/Shutterstock

The cast members give the best recommendations

Think of us like a Yelp review for Disney. Unlike most 9 to 5 office jobs, we actually love visiting the place we work on our days off. When we try out different rides, restaurants, and shows throughout the parks, it gives us an opportunity to provide you with only the best recommendations.  “Also, the more people you know at different parks and resorts, the more you find out about what places are good,” says a former guest relations employee at Disney World. Check out these new things coming to Disney parks this year.

The Asian section of the Animal Kingdom at Disneyworld, Orlando, Florida, AmericaREX/Shutterstock

Alternate between indoor and outdoor rides

Many of us like to switch between indoor, air-conditioned rides and outdoor rides to beat the sweltering summer heat when we visit the park. It helps us stay cool and keeps our energy levels up.

Disney Characters the 'Seven Dwarfs' Walk Along Main Street During a Parade Along Main Street at Disneyland in Anaheim Calif Wednesday 04 May 2005 On May 5 Disneyland Resort in California Launches the 'Happiest Homecoming On Earth ' an 18-month Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Very First Disney Theme Park the Event is the Cornerstone of a Global Celebration in Which All 11 Disney Theme Parks Around the World Will Join Together For the First-time For the Landmark OccasionArmando Arorizo/Shutterstock

Be aware of your surroundings

The magical world of Disney is full of surprises wherever you go. “Not everything is on the schedules,” says a former quick-service cast member at Disney World. “Sometimes a character or a five-minute show pops up out of nowhere because the park may be trying to give the rides some relief time.”

FoodShutterstock(2)

Buy a meal plan for the family

If you’re staying on Disney property and have a family that likes to eat, one of the Disney Dining Plan options may be right for you. The standard Disney Dining Plan includes two snacks, one quick-service meal (fast food joint), and one table-service meal. In 2017, the plan cost about $70 per adult, $25 for kids 3-9 years old, and kids under 3 could get away with sharing a plate with their parents. “My family and I would use the snack in the morning, quick-service for lunch, and the table-service for dinner at night,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. “We would almost always have extra food.” Some entrees at restaurants can cost $50 alone so that could be some major savings, depending on your vacation budget and how much food you consume. Don’t forget these nine things you need to book in advance before going on a Disney World vacation.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.