I’ve had a Disney World annual pass for over 25 years. Here are my 9 best tips for saving time and money.

megan posing with safari mickey and minnie at animal kingdom
I’ve been going to Disney essentially my whole life.

  • I’ve had a Disney World annual pass since I was 3, and now I visit the parks at least twice a month.
  • Mobile-ordering can save you time, and opting for a kid’s meal can save you money on food.
  • I like to save a little by staying at the Swan and Dolphin, plus it’s still close to the parks.

I try to mobile-order food and drinks as much as possible.

hand holding glass of green slushie at star wars galaxy's edge in disney world
The green milk from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Mobile-ordering my meals can save me a lot of time at the theme parks.

It’s available at select dining locations through the My Disney Experience app, and it allows you to order your food in advance and pick it up at a set time.

One time-saving trick is to push the “I’m here, prepare my order” button when you’re on the way so it’s ready when you get there.

This also works for mobile-order to-go, which is only for table-service restaurants at the Disney hotels.

I always ask about discounts before buying anything.

two hands holding tickets for the disney world 50th anniversary celebration
I get a decent amount of discounts with my annual pass.

One easy way to save money is to ask about discounts for everything from food and drinks to merchandise and hotel rooms.

For food, drinks, and merchandise just ask the cashier if they take any discounts. The most common ones are for annual passholders, Disney Vacation Club memberships, D23 memberships, and Disney Visa cardholders. There are also some military discounts.

When it comes time to book your hotel room, check online for discounts through Disney. There’s often an annual passholder and Florida-resident discount, or even package deals that can help you save some money.

I plan on riding big attractions during the extended hours for hotel guests.

stormtroopers lined up in star wars rise of the resistance ride at disney world
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a newer ride.

Disney World is currently offering special extended park hours for hotel guests. Every day, the parks open 30 minutes early for those staying at a Disney resort (including the “Good Neighbor” and Disney Springs-area hotels).

The extra 30 minutes is great for hopping on some of the attractions that typically have longer wait times, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios, or Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom.

If you chose to stay at one of the deluxe Disney hotels, like the Polynesian Resort or Wilderness Lodge, you’re also privy to an additional two hours of park time on select nights at Epcot or Magic Kingdom.

When choosing a hotel, I tend to stick with the Swan and Dolphin.

exterior shot of the pool at the swan and dolphin hotel on a clear day at disney world
You still get the perks of the purely Disney hotels.

Picking a hotel is one of the most important decisions about a trip. One of my favorite resort complexes is the Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

The three sister hotels — Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve — are located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, so it’s easy to walk or take a boat to the parks. This saves a ton of time compared to taking a bus or driving and parking.

Although they’re affiliated with Disney and you still get the perks of a Disney resort, the hotels are actually owned by Marriott. I can use or earn Marriott points every visit.

Taking the parking trams in the morning is a waste of time.

front entrance of epcot all lit up at night in blue
It’s usually faster to just walk through the parking lots to the front of the park.

Many people are excited to see the parking trams return to Disney World after a hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. But I think they’re a waste of time, especially in the mornings.

It’s not always sitting and waiting for you when you get out of your car. Plus, if you get on with a bunch of people, all of you are going to be getting in line at the front of the park at the same time.

I’ve found that it’s actually faster to walk to the front of the park in the morning.

I’m constantly testing this theory with my mom, who always takes the tram. When I walk, I typically end up waiting a few minutes for her, which could end up being the difference between getting on an attraction with no wait or standing in a 30-minute line.

Kid meals at Disney are just as good as adult meals, and they’re cheaper.

container of kids-sized sushi with mickey faces in the rice from disney world
The kid’s meals are still a good portion size.

Disney World resorts have some real gems on the kid’s menus.

To save both time and money, I’ll sometimes mobile-order off the kid’s menu for lunch or dinner. And if the restaurant takes discounts, I can save even more.

One of my favorite resort kid’s menus is at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort. The kid’s sushi entrée comes with five different types of sushi — including two pieces of chicken-nugget sushi.

The meal also comes with a drink and two sides, which ends up being plenty for me.

I always take a break in the middle of the day.

megan laying on a couch in a hotel room taking a break from the disney parks
I find I get more things done if I let myself take a break.

No matter what the weather or what I have going on, I always try to take a break from the parks in the middle of the day.

Sometimes that means going back to my hotel to take a nap or go to the pool, and other times that means just getting lunch at a restaurant outside of the parks.

It might seem counterintuitive to leave the parks in the middle of the day. But I’ve actually found that I can get the same amount or even more done by taking a break instead of standing in lines for hours in the middle of the day.

Keep in mind that the strategy really only works if you’re staying at a nearby Disney hotel.

Take an Uber from the airport if you can, I promise it saves so much time.

uber
The buses and shuttles eat up time.

There are a few options to get to Disney World from the Orlando International Airport, but my favorite is to use rideshares like Uber.

There are cheaper services, like Mears Connect, but it often takes longer because the bus drivers are waiting for a certain number of people for each ride.

The time saved by paying a few extra dollars each way often outweighs the money saved — especially if I’m trying to get to a dining reservation or meet friends in the park for the day.

There are plenty of “free” things to do at the parks and resorts.

golden-brown marshmallow on a stick in front of a firepit
There are usually events with food or treats in the evenings.

One of my favorite free park activities is the Wilderness Explorers program at Animal Kingdom.

You can pick up a guide from any marked station around the park, where you’ll be led in the oath from the Pixar movie “Up.” Then you can find the other Wilderness Explorers spots, complete activities, and learn things about the animals around the park.

Free activities can also be found at the Disney hotels, including scavenger hunts you can do on your own time, nightly movies in outdoor common spaces, or even campfires complete with toasted marshmallows.

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