[Updated June 2016]
Here are five things that you can do before you leave home to save time on your Disney vacation.
1. Make dining reservations early… really, really early.
Thousands of guests visit the resort on a daily basis, meaning there are hundreds of visitors flocking to Disney World’s restaurants. Many of the table-service restaurants strongly urge customers to make reservations 180 days in advance due to their immense popularity. Most of those restaurants have a limited capacity for walk-up reservations or no availability at all -- so even if you can get a reservation by walking up to the restaurant, you may have to wait an hour or more for the next available table.
Even though it eliminates any chance of culinary spontaneity, your best bet is to make reservations as early as you can. It beats having to scramble to find somewhere to eat at the height of dinnertime. Guests staying on property can make reservations for their entire stay in one shot, 180 days prior to their arrival day. Off-property guests must make each reservation separately, 180 days prior to each day you’ll dine on property.
2. Check in online.
You can significantly reduce your wait time during the registration process at your Disney hotel by checking in online. During the online process, you’ll provide the information that the hotel would typically need during the traditional check-in process, such as a credit card. Once you get to the hotel, you’ll be directed to a special desk to pick up your information packet and MagicBands if you did not receive them at home. If you’re using the Disney’s Magical Express bus service, you and dozens of other guests will be racing to the standard registration line at the hotel all at once, creating a long queue, so online check-in is worth considering. Plus, you can do it within 60 days of your arrival.
3. Make your FastPass+ reservations
One of the newest and easiest ways to save time on your Disney vacation is to make reservations for select rides and attractions before you leave home. With FastPass+ you can make selections up to 60 days prior to arrival for your entire length of stay; day guests may do so up to 30 days in advance of their visit. Each guest is given three entitlements per day at one theme park; these can be done online or with your phone or tablet. Additional entitlements are available once you use your primary three and can be reserved one by one at kiosks in the park. Using FastPass+ allows guests to skip long lines at specific attractions by showing up at a scheduled time.
4. Customize your MagicBands.
In 2013, Disney introduced some nifty new hardware to guests: MagicBands. You can use these gadgets to unlock your hotel room door, enter the theme and water parks, access your FastPass+ reservations, and charge merchandise and food to your hotel room. Resort guests will receive the bracelets, which can be customized online at least 10 days before your arrival. They will be shipped to your home -- don’t pack them in your checked luggage as the bands will be used to check in at Disney’s Magical Express if you’re using the service. If you do not customize your MagicBand prior to arrival, you’ll receive one at your hotel, which means spending extra time at the counter when checking in.
5. Purchase your tickets in advance.
Day guests can save time by ordering their park tickets online or over the phone and having them shipped home instead of standing in line at the gates, though there is a fee associated with this. By doing so, you can proceed straight into the parks without the hassle of waiting in multiple queues. Resort guests do not have to worry about this since they have their MagicBands already.