I love visiting Disney parks. Love love love. Wish I was sitting in a Disney park right now listening to the area music and workin’ on a churro.
That being said…
Those parks get crowded sometimes. And there’s nothing worse than hitting the park with your big list of things you want to do only to find twenty thousand other people are at the same park with the same list and you’re all getting there at the same time.
I recently found myself at Disneyland when the park was near capacity so I found a corner table with a little peace and quiet and jotted down some thoughts on how to survive a crowded Disney park without ruining your own vacation.
Here are my 6 tips:
1 /// Pick one thing to ride, one thing to eat, and one thing to watch. That’s it. Yes, you’ll probably ride/eat/watch more than that but that’s all going to be gravy on top of your three part mission. For me on this last trip, I picked It’s a Small World, pumpkin beignets, and the Paint the Night Parade and I was able to do all three easily and without stress because I had nothing else on my to-do list. I know it’s hard, especially if you never get to be at Disneyland and you can’t stop thinking about the money you’ve spent to be there, but the less you tell yourself you HAVE to do, the happier you’ll be at Disneyland…which is kind of the point.
2 /// Take a midday break if you can. I didn’t have the luxury of having a hotel room to sneak back to in the middle of the day, but when I do and the parks are crowded, I am definitely a morning and evening park-goer. The midday hours when everything is hot and everyone is there and the lines are at their longest…it’s just not very vacation-like. Even if you’re traveling with kids, I would opt to snooze during the day and stay up late to ride the rides in the dark. They’re actually more fun that way!
3 /// Don’t get hung up on the big attractions. There are those rides that everyone just has to ride, but sometimes the lines can take hours out of your vacation day when the ride itself only lasts ten minutes (or less!). I don’t think that’s a good trade unless that one ride is your own thing you picked for the day and even then I’m all about waiting until the evening or hitting it first thing in the morning. After you’ve done your one ride, check out the other things about the park that don’t get as much attention but are just as fun like the themed restaurants, the entertainers performing in the different parts of the park, and the slower attractions. (It’s a Small World! All day, every day!!)
4 /// Character dining it up if you have kids with you. I hate waiting in lines for characters because there’s not usually anything to look at and occasionally they switch out and take breaks right before you manage to get up there. (NOOOOOOO!) The breakfasts are so much easier because you get to see the characters for sure in a relaxed environment AND often there are waffles. Everything is better with waffles. Of course, this might not work if you waited until the last minute and you’re standing in the park reading this on your phone and now there are no reservations, but if you’re doing your homework early and your trip isn’t for a few months or more but you know it will be crowded when you go (hello, Christmas), go! Find dining reservations!!
5 /// Quit pushing, running, and doing that thing where you hold on to each other in a big snake of people like the rest of us can’t do anything about it if you’re all touching. Stop. Stop that now. It doesn’t actually make you faster, it just increases the chance that you’ll get hurt, get in an altercation with someone, knock over someone’s kid, or break something while you’re trying to take a “shortcut” through the stores even though there are no store shortcuts because Disney has people flow down to an art.
6 /// Take shortcuts. Don’t take shortcuts like I outlined above, where you’re darting in and around the snow globes and the elderly. Actually look at your map and check out the lesser-taken paths around the edges or away from the restrooms. Be warned: you might end up walking through smoking areas because those tend to be on the fringe, but if you can hold your breath and scurry through those paths can be huge timesavers. Also, at the end of the night there is generally a shorter path that takes you to the park exit if you are willing to walk behind the shops on Main Street U.S.A. – keep your eyes open for cast members leading you in that direction!