1 GO OFF-PEAK
Perhaps obvious on the surface, but fundamentally this is a great way to get more from a Disney trip. Among the best periods to visit if you're looking to avoid the hoards are mid-September through mid-November, mid-January through mid-March and April through mid-May. These intervals avoid major US holiday seasons such as Spring Break, Thanksgiving, summer holidays and, of course, the dreaded Silly Season. If you can also plan a trip midweek instead of weekends, so much the better.
2 STAY AT A DISNEY HOTEL
Somewhat shrewdly, Disney have included an array of incentives to encourage guests to stay at Disney Resort Hotels rather than other generic resorts within the vicinity of their parks. Some noteworthy bonuses include complimentary transport and parking between hotels and theme parks, early access to FastPass+, meaning you can reserve select attractions and shows up to 60 days prior to arrival, additional time at theme parks with "Magic Hours", complimentary MagicBands - essentially a bracelet that acts as a key, wallet and more - a host of dining plan packages, close proximity to the parks and more.
3 EAT WHEN OTHERS DON'T
The lunchtime rush can be hectic in the world of Disney but if you can tweak your appetite to operate a little differently to those around you, the advantages are many. Firstly, when the restaurants and cafeterias are jam packed it stands to reason less people will be queueing for attractions so you can sneak in a quick ride on Space Mountain while others are stuck waiting to fill their face with a hotdog. Paradoxically, when the cafes empty out, the rides will again get busy so having enjoyed your ride you can go straight to the front of the hotdog line.
4 GET A FASTPASS+
Acquiring one of these is a smart move. The Disney FastPass+ service allows guests to request reservations on select attractions, entertainment and more up to 60 days before check-in. The way it works is simple; guests can secure up to three FastPass+ selections a day in advance, either on the mobile app or online, or for the same day at a kiosk within the park. Once secured, they can then enjoy significantly shorter wait times on their favourite attractions. The best part? It's free. The only caveat is you must have a Walt Disney Resort hotel reservation to link with your pass.
5 USE FREE PACKAGE EXPRESS
Buying souvenirs and gifts at the many shops throughout Disney's parks may be fun, but carrying it around all day definitely isn't. Happily, for those staying at Disney Resorts, you can now simply request that a Cast Member organise free delivery of your purchases back to your hotel so it's there waiting on your return. The process is straightforward and can be organised directly at gift shops throughout the parks when you pay for your goods.
6 PLAN AND RESEARCH
While this sounds like a no-brainer, a little bit of research and forward planning goes a long way with a Disney holiday. Securing annual leave well in advance ensures you'll have the option to visit during quieter times of the year when flight prices are potentially cheaper as well as giving you your pick of resort hotels and the chance to arrange the all-important FastPass+. With all of this locked in, you can pre-book places on select attractions, stay at a hotel within striking distance of the parks and even plan when to take in parades and shows.
7 USE MAGIC HOURS
Many visitors may be unaware, but every day, selected attractions are open for additional hours at one of the Disney theme parks before or after the parks are open to the general public. Disney Resort Hotel guests (and Disney Golden Oak Residents) can take advantage of this offer by viewing the extra magic hours online https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars/ or by referring to the printed Times Guide that will be presented on arrival at your Disney Resort Hotel. During Magic Hours, queueing times for attractions will be greatly reduced meaning you could always duck back to the hotel later for an afternoon laze by the pool having already enjoyed several rides before the park is open to most.
8 FIND FREE EVENTS
Although a lot of people associate Disney theme parks simply with the variety of attractions, there's a lot more to experience besides roller coasters. Each day countless shows, parades and productions take place throughout the parks, with most included in the price of your ticket. Some of the best include Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple and the much-loved Main Street Electrical Parade featuring thousands of dazzling lights combined with weird soundscapes. Pick up a Times Guide on entering the park or check here https://disneyland.disney.go.com/entertainment/
9 HIT THE NEW ATTRACTIONS
In May, both Disneyland and Disney World unveiled their hottest new attractions in years. At Orlando Disney World's Magic Kingdom, be sure to check out Pandora-The World of Avatar, a mind-blowing 3D simulator that causes you to feel as though you're flying on the back of a banshee through the landscapes of Pandora. The attraction is also home to the Na'vi River Journey, a soothing boat cruise along the Kasvapan River that features bioluminescent plants and even holograms. At Disneyland, the new Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: BREAKOUT! Is a thrilling freefall ride themed around your favourite characters from both hit films directed by James Gunn.
10 GO CHARACTER DINING
A sure-fire hit with the kids, Character Dining Experiences give families the chance to meet their favourite Disney characters while ensuring everyone eats a good meal before or after a big day at the parks. It's also an excellent opportunity to bag a few memorable snaps for the album (or Facebook more likely) posing alongside anyone from Goofy to Mickey Mouse or (my personal favourite) Tigger. Character Dining Experiences can get busy so it's definitely a good idea to make reservations in advance.
Guy Wilkinson was a guest of Disney.