by Shannon Benecchi
Many years ago I had the privilege of participating in the Walt Disney World College Program. It’s an amazing program that helped build my resume, instilled in me a great work ethic and resulted in a crazy love for all things Disney. Most importantly, I met some wonderful people whom have become life-long friends. One of my friends from the program is coming out to California to visit me over Labor Day weekend, obviously we are going to Disneyland. I am so excited, but also a little nervous. Not only is it Labor Day, but it is also the weekend for the Disneyland Half Marathon. To say the park is going to be packed is an understatement. Luckily, we are seasoned Disney travelers! So we are going to using the following strategies to make the best of a crazy day in the park.
This isn’t really a secret, there are fewer people (and shorter lines) early in the morning. If it’s going to be a really busy day plan on getting there well before the park opens. You are going to want to be sure to give yourself time to park, get through security and get into the park. My personal goal is to be on Main Street about 10 minutes before the rope drop. This may seem silly, but I love to get a few big rides done early in the morning. It gives me an odd sense of accomplishment!
Look into Extra Magic Hours
If you are staying on property you may be able to get into one of the parks earlier than the general public. Yes, you will need to get up earlier than usual on these days but the extra time in the park is amazing! This is a free perk to people who stay on property, there usually is a minimum stay requirement to be eligible for this.
Don’t forget to eat!
It is so tempting (and easy) to run from ride to ride without stopping to grab a bite to eat. Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you remember to pause and eat! I always pack bottled water and a bag of trail mix so I can snack in line. I have seen so many cranky adults meltdown because they needed a good meal- take care of yourself to ward of any temper tantrums!
Use FastPass to your advantage
If you are visiting Walt Disney World you probably already have your FastPass all set to go. Make sure you set it up before you go! If you are visiting Disneyland we are still able to get multiple FastPass tickets per day. FastPass is free and easy to use!
Take a break midday
To me, the parks seem the most jam packed between 1 and 3, people are getting hot and tired and the visitors who only stay half-day at each park haven’t quite left yet. When I start to feel like the crowds are getting to be too much I take a break. If you are visiting Disneyland or California Adventure, you are in luck because Downtown Disney is just steps away! Get your hand stamped and go enjoy some time exploring Downtown Disney. If you really want a treat, go visit Trader Sam’s inside the Disneyland Hotel for a drink and snack. Fun fact: you can get a Kungaloosh at Trader Sam’s (assuming you are 21 or older). It’s not on the menu but they will make you one if ask for it.
Stay up late!
After your midday break you should be feeling ready for round 2 in the parks! I love the early evening, there is such a magical feeling as the afternoon parade is ending and everyone is getting ready for the nighttime shows. I am going to say something very unpopular right now- if you haven’t gone on all the attractions that you set out to experience you may want to consider skipping the nighttime show. I love Fantasmic and World of Color is absolutely breathtaking….but the lines for almost all of the attractions will be significantly shorter during the nighttime shows.
Yes, visiting Disney during the peak season can be overwhelming and very crowded but there are some big advantages! Most rides are open during the peak season and sometimes there are early and late showings of the nighttime shows, plus the parks stay open a bit later during the peak season. If you do visit any of the Disney parks during peak season just remember to pack some extra patience in your suitcase and have a great time!