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14 Insider Secrets from a Disney World Super-Fan

For some super fans, Disney is more than just a getaway, it's a way of life. We have a super fan of our own: Phyllis G., who's visited Walt Disney World dozens of time and even purchased a retirement home within a crystal shoe's throw of Cinderella Castle. Here are some of her insider tips for saving time, money, and sanity while making the most of your visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Disney World CastleREINHOLD MATAY/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Stay smart at a Disney property

Staying on property at a Walt Disney World resort comes with a slew of included amenities that make it a must if you’re visiting the Orlando theme park, including the free Magical Express shuttle service to and from the airport (they collect your suitcases, so you don’t waste time at the luggage carousel, and even check your bags straight through to your home destination from your hotel). The immersive theming is an extra perk, and so are the early entry and late hours at the parks just for resort property guests. Check out these insider tips for the best Walt Disney World vacation.

Doorstep deliveryronstik/Shutterstock

Save on essentials with doorstep delivery

This insider tip will save you big in both time and money: Order food and drink from an outside grocery vendor (for example GardenGrocer.com or Amazon) to be delivered to your hotel when you arrive. Some top suggestions for stocking up: Bottled water, juice boxes, morning cereal and milk, baby food and formula, suntan lotion, even wine and beer. You’ll save big by not having to purchase necessities at inflated theme park prices. Here are some more ways to save serious money at Disney.

Glass of drinking ice water with ice cube placed on glass table with bokeh background.Ice Water Drinking Concept.Pra Chid/Shutterstock

Water wise

It’s important to stay hydrated in the Orlando heat, but there’s no need to go broke buying bottled water; counter concessions will give you cups of water and ice for free, you just have to know to ask.

magic kingdomCourtesy Phyllis G

FastPass savvy

Booking FastPass (Disney’s ride reservation system) is a must to avoid hour’s long rides for the busiest park rides; staying on Disney property gives you a head start making advance reservations (you can reserve 60 days out as opposed to 30 for everyone else), but booking as far in advance is only half the battle. After you’ve booked your three FastPasses (the max you can make at one time), make sure to reschedule them all to morning (if they weren’t scheduled then already). Then, on your day in the park, after you’ve used all three, you can then request more FastPasses via the Disney app or at guest services; if they’re at end of the day, you won’t be able to add any additional.

 

Beauty and The BeastSam Aronov/Shutterstock

See the Beast

For Disney fans on the search for unique character photo ops, one requires a special reservation—for a dining reservation that is. Be Our Guest, the Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, is the only place in all of Disney World where you can have a meet and greet with the towering Beast (rumor has it his copious fur covering is too hot and heavy to be out in the Orlando sun and rain). The restaurant is so popular, Disney super fans have been known to book their vacations after booking a reservation here.

Close up of woman hand holding fresh waffle cone with raspberry sorbetBlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

Skip the Disney Dining Plan

Paying in advance for a set meal plan is too restricting, making you seek out types of dining you may not really be craving (it’s Disney, maybe you just want to grab an ice cream and whiz around Space Mountain instead of waiting on line for a counter service meal). It’s an especially bad bargain if there are picky eaters in your group. (One exception, though: the times of year when the plan is offered for free, because, FREE.) Here are 10 delicious foods you have to try at Walt Disney World.

 

Cactus Mickey MouseMel Lopez Morbello/Shutterstock

Search for hidden Mickeys

For a fabulous, fun, and free, diversion around Disney, search for Hidden Mickeys. These artfully hidden images of Mickey Mouse are a Disney fan favorite (get some help spotting some, at wdwinfo.com); you’ll find them in the carpets in the hotels, in the pictures on the walls, in signage, and the parks’ flowers, floats, and decorations. Finding one of these on your own feels like a victory!

VIP guided tourGiovanni G/Shutterstock

Be a VIP on a guided tour

For Disney super fans, nothing can compete with behind-the-scenes access to the Happiest Place on Earth. The Keys to the Kingdom tour is a top choice. It starts early in the morning before the park opens for a rare look at the Magic Kingdom with no one it. You also get rare access to the entire level of tunnels below the park (bet you didn’t know you were standing on the second floor). And you get front-of-the-line access to several of the rides. It’s definitely worth a splurge (even the garbage collection is fascinating). Don’t miss these secret Disney spots.

Japanese fried chicken is cooked and rest for oil drain side of pot and other cooking equipment in restaurant or food kiosk. Food for picnic in holidays. Old and reuse oil. Dirty oil. Temple marketSERENDIPITER/Shutterstock

Eat your way around the world on the cheap

Disney offers unique international tastes not only at World Showcase at Epcot, but throughout the resort, and at reasonable prices if you know where to look. Skip the sit-down spots in favor of the kiosks instead. Love a particular dish? Research on the Disney website to see where it’s served, there’s often a less expensive version at counter service spots (for example, Shrimp and Grits at the charming food court at Port Orleans is bargain priced compared to similar versions at Disney’s sit down spots).

 

Flat lay of travel and tourism concept, small white clean paper calendar with black pen and toy airplane on vibrant yellow background.eamesBot/Shutterstock

Visit during off-peak times

If you’re not tied to school schedules, September and October, after the kids are back in school and before the fall and winter holidays kick into gear, is a great time to visit Disney.

Tokyo commuting · rainy day · Juneshigemi okano/Shutterstock

Prepare for rain

It’s a fact of life in Orlando: You can count on at least a passing rain storm most afternoons. By why let it ruin your day? Throw a slicker or a dollar store poncho in your bag and you’ll still be able to enjoy exploring Disney. Bonus: Many people leave the park when the rain starts, so lines often dissipate after a storm.

everestCourtesy Phyllis G

Plan for heat

Yes, it can get hot at Disney. If you know there’s a particularly steamy day during your visit, head to Animal Kingdom: Since the animals need to be protected from the strong sun, it’s the park with the most trees and shade.

Delicious dinner with grilled vegetables and wineAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Make it a grownup getaway

Disney isn’t just for kids. Visiting during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and you’ll be able to drink and eat your way through dozens of specialty shops with unique tastes from around the world (more than you can ever hope to try in a day).  And there are plenty of romantic spots for couples to cozy up, including the Abracadabar at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort and the Tiki Bar at The Polynesian Resort.

Disney CastleYANLEI LI/Shutterstock

Visit after dark

Be sure to come back to the parks if you take a late afternoon break: There’s a world of entertainment offered only at night, including fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Illuminations at Epcot. At Hollywood Studios, the water and light show Fantasmic is worth grabbing a FastPass for (and riding Tower or Terror in the dark makes it extra terrifying); Animal Kingdom’s new River of Light show is visually stunning (keep an eye on the trees that start to glow in the background), and Pandora truly shines at night. Read on for the 23 secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.