How to Deal with Huge Crowds at Disney World

••• Walt Disney Parks

Nobody sets out with the goal to visit Disney World when it's super crowded, but sometimes crowds are simply impossible to avoid. If you're flexible about when you can visit, plan your trip for one of the less busy times

On the other hand, if you must visit during a school vacation such as spring break, summer, Thanksgiving weekend, or at Christmastime, there's no point in sugar coating it; you should be prepared for big crowds. 

What this means is that you're going to need to be even more strategic than usual about how you plan your time. Here's how to minimize the wait time for rides and attractions any time of year, and especially when crowds are massive.

Stay at a Disney World Resort. Staying at a Disney property comes with some very nice perks that can save you a lot of time and hassle, from the free Magical Express airport shuttle bus to the indispensible Extra Magic Hours to the earlier access to FastPass+. Not only will you find Disney World Resort properties for every budget, but there is almost always a good hotel deal on the table so you can choose the one that makes the most sense for your family. 

Also, consider choosing a hotel that is relatively close to the parks where you intend to spend the most time. Disney's excellent free transportation system is excellent, but during busy periods you may spend more time waiting in lines. Check out our maps of Disney World.

Upgrade your tickets with the park hopper option. The park hopper add-on, which lets you visit more than one Disney theme park in a single day, is a godsend when you visit during a peak period. It incurs a flat fee, so the longer you stay, the more sense it makes.

Be a FastPass+ ninja. Don't wait until you're on the plane or checking into your hotel to figure out which rides and attractions are on your priority list. Soon after booking your trip, have everyone in your family come up with a bucket list of three to seven experiences. This will tell you a lot about which parks will be your priority and where you'll want to focus your time and energy.

Next, get to know the My Disney Experience app and reserve times for your family's top picks using FastPass+, a system that allows you to skip the main line at three attractions or experiences in a single park. If you're staying at a Disney World Resort, you can start programming your FastPass+ picks 60 days before your arrival.

  • Tip: If you visit the park with the morning Extra Magic Hour (see below) and you get the park hopper option, consider saving your FastPasses for the park you will visit in the afternoon. 

Plan your morning around Extra Magic Hours. Getting value at Disney World means spending less time in line and more time having fun. Families staying Disney World Resorts should take full advantage of Extra Magic Hours. Every day, one park opens an hour earlier than the others and another stays open an hour later. During the morning Extra Magic Hour, even the most popular attractions have virtually no line. This is your best chance to ride Expedition Everest or Space Mountain twice in a row with little if any wait time, so go for it.

As a bonus, you won't need to use up any of your precious FastPasses until later in the morning.

Book a very early breakfast in the Magic Kingdom. Make an early-as-possible breakfast reservation (before 8:30am) at one of three restaurants inside the Magic Kingdom (Cinderella’s Royal Table, The Crystal Palace, or Be Our Guest). Finish your meal before the park opens at 9am, and you can get to your first attraction before a line forms and without needing a FastPass.

Head back to your hotel around lunch. All the parks get more crowded as the day goes on, so once the morning lines start getting crazy long, it's time to chill out with some relaxing time at the hotel pool. Best of all, you'll miss the afternoon crowds, which tend to be the most crushing of the day.

Visit a different park in the afternoon. The park with the morning Extra Magic Hour tends to be more crowded than usual all day long. Got the park hopper? In the afternoon, visit a different park. Program your three daily FastPasses with afternoon times in this second park, so you can now enjoy shorter lines there, just as you did in the morning in the first park.