- Theme Park Tourist/Flickr
- Walt Disney World cast members know what it takes to have a good time at the theme park.
- Business Insider reached out to a number of former cast members to get their best tips on making the most of your Disney vacation.
- From avoiding unnecessary stress to embracing Florida’s unpredictable weather, here’s what they had to say.
Walt Disney World trips are a major investment for many guests.
If you’re going to throw down thousands of dollars for you and your family or friends to enjoy yourselves at the resort, you’re going to want to make sure you’re getting the best possible experience.
You’re going to need some insider information to take advantage of hidden hacks and avoid common pitfalls. And who knows the ins-and-outs of Walt Disney World better than cast members?
Business Insider recently reached out to a number of former cast members who worked at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios and asked them about their best tips for park-goers.
Here’s what the cast members had to say:
- Hector Alejandro/Flickr
Orlando is a hot place. Average temperatures can spike into the 90s in the summer.
So it’s important to stay hydrated as you’re maneuvering around Walt Disney World.
Devin Melendy, a former cast member who wrote “Devin Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary,” told Business Insider that she often saw “a lot of dehydrated-looking people walking around.” She noted that guests are welcome to bring their own water into the park.
But don’t worry if you somehow forget your water bottle.
“Every quick-service location will give you tap water, free of charge,” a former cast member who used to work in the Magic Kingdom told Business Insider.
Chantelle Judd, a former cast member who worked in Frontierland, added that “you can go to a restaurant and ask for cold water – they will give this to you in a cup and this saves you money.”
Judd also recommended, wearing “light clothing,” bringing sunscreen, and drinking water throughout the day.
Don’t get too upset about the rain
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Don’t be surprise if a little April shower dampens your trip. Rain in Florida isn’t exactly an unheard of phenomenon.
Missy Farni, a former Disney cast member who worked at Epcot and Animal Kingdom, recommended always checking the weather before heading out.
“Florida rain is unpredictable, but being able to know when you need a poncho or an umbrella before you go to the park would probably be really beneficial to you as well,” she told Business Insider. “Just so you’re not taken off guard when it rains.”
That being said, she said sporadic, five minute bouts of “torrential rain” are always a possibility, “because Orlando.”
But a rainy day at Disney doesn’t have to be a complete washout.
“Honestly, if you come on a rainy day you’ll have a great time,” Meghan O’Neill, a former Disney cast member who worked in Future World in Epcot, told Business Insider. “There are a few rides that go down due to weather, but there will be significantly less people at the parks.”
So, to paraphrase Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh,” if you’re adverse to crowds, you’re better off hoping that the rain, rain, rain comes down, down, down in rushing, rising rivlets.
Bring in your own food and drinks to save money
The food at Walt Disney World is often tasty, and some of the park’s restaurants serve up delicious meals.
But it’s also incredibly expensive. If you’re looking to save money, you’re better off bringing in your own food.
That’s right. You’re free to lug a cooler loaded with snacks and drinks into the park.
“Most people don’t realize that and, of course, the company doesn’t advertise it,” former Walt Disney World cast member John Quagliano, who worked in the Magic Kingdom, told Business Insider. “You can physically bring in an entire cooler full of snacks, water, whatever you want.”
He used to work near the storage area where cast members would store guests’ items. Once you check in your cooler, cast members will put a tag on it and store it in the back.
“You can come back at any time of the day and pick up your water and your food and save yourself a crap ton of money throughout the day,” Quagliano added.
Judd also recommended bringing your own food and drinks.
When in doubt, get in line
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A former Walt Disney World cast member who worked at the park in the 1980s said that families shouldn’t stand around the park staring at maps and wasting time.
“Get in a line somewhere and look at the map,” the cast member told Business Insider. “When you’re done talking, you will be at the front of the line or hopefully closer.”
Look around for the perfect spot to watch the fireworks
Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Walt Disney World’s iconic fireworks. But some hotspots can get a bit clogged with guests when it comes time for the show.
“If you don’t want to watch the fireworks on crowded Main Street, my favorite place is beside the Seven Dwarves Mine Train in front of Beast’s Castle,” a former cast member who worked in the Magic Kingdom told Business Insider.
Book fast passes early
- Jennifer Lynn/Flickr
“Book fast passes early,” Melendy said. “As soon as you can. Because then you can frame your entire day around it.”
She added that once you have your fast passes squared away, you can base your whole day around them.
Download the app
- David McNew/Getty Images
Farni said there’s one thing you should do before you’ve “solidified” your plans at Walt Disney World.
She recommended downloading My Disney Experience. The app provides guests with ride wait times, a park map, character greeting spots, and a place to store your itinerary.
It also stores fast passes, restaurant reservations, photo passes, and tickets. Farni said that most people meticulously plan their Disney trips, and the app can help with that.
“You can’t just go to the Disney parks and assume, ‘Oh, we’re just going to breeze through Magic Kingdom,'” Farni told Business Insider. “That doesn’t really work very well.”
Don’t miss out on all of Walt Disney World’s intricate details
- Sam Howzit/Flickr
It’s tempting to try to cram as much as possible into your Walt Disney World trip.
But don’t forget to look around and check out some of the park’s charming details, once and a while.
“There are so many small details that people miss by trying to ride everything,” a former Walt Disney World cast member who previously worked at Hollywood Studios. “I understand that you want to get your money’s worth, but you are missing so much.”
- Diana Kelly/Flickr
Jake Kleckner, a former Disney World cast member who worked in Frontierland, said to “expect things to go wrong.”
“On any given day, there’s thousands of people in the park,” he told Business Insider. “Someone is going to do something that’s going to wreck your plan.”
He said that his family came to visit him and tour the park on Christmas, while he was working at Disney’s College Program.
“We went to Hollywood Studios and we did probably almost everything in the park by the time we were done,” he said. “And none of it was planned out. I didn’t have any of the fast passes planned in advance. I didn’t have any dining reservations. We just took the day as it went.”
Christina Hartless, a former Disney cast member who worked at Epcot, told Business Insider that it’s a good idea to plan everything out in advance because a more “go-with-the-flow Disney vacation is not really completely possible anymore.”
But she recommended “taking things in stride” and not getting “too stressed out about the specifics.”
“You’re on vacation,” she told Business Insider. “You’re there to enjoy yourself. You don’t want to be stressing out about every little thing if it’s not going exactly the way you wanted it to. Just kind of live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on and what you’re doing, even if you’re on one side of the park and you’re missing a fast pass on the other side.”
Kleckner said that guests with type A personalities in particular should not “take yourself or your vacation too seriously.”
“Remember to relax and have fun,” he said. If you use your time wisely, you will get done everything that you want to get done. You don’t have to stress or freak out. Your vacation shouldn’t feel like a non-vacation.”
Are you a current or former Disney cast member with a story to share? Email email@example.com.