Relaxation at Walt Disney World: Tips for Vacationing Families

Mad Hatter Splash Area Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

Tips for Relaxing at Walt Disney World

Even if you are a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, you may find it difficult to unwind when you have nearly 50 square miles with very tempting shopping, dining, rides, food, and recreation to explore. Can you really find relaxation during a theme park vacation?

Just today, I was planning my FastPass+ selections and itinerary for a quick trip that we are taking at the end of August. And guess what? I found myself quickly filling up my Disney days from morning to night. Sigh; I know better.

Relaxation at Walt Disney World. Ideas for a relaxing vacation.

Some of the most priceless moments that I’ve savored at Disney World are those that were during break times. And so, just as soon as I fill you in on these tips, I’m going to revisit my August plans and make sure I’ve allowed time for relaxation at Walt Disney World.

Leave the Real World Behind

Most of us find it fairly easy to purchase and don Mickey Ears. We’re all pretty good at embracing Mickey-shaped food. And I think WDW newbies and veterans alike have no issue with shrugging off stress while riding our favorite attractions.

Mickey Waffles are served at Trail's End Restaurant at Disney's Fort Wilderness.
Mickey Waffle are always fun and delicious to eat!

But, what about technology? Some of us need it for work (even at Disney!). Some of us love sharing our family moments (and favorite Disney snacks!!) on social media. And now, My Disney Experience and other apps make it actually easier to tour Disney World with the use of our smart gadgets.

Anna and Elsa in Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Entrance
Meet Anna and Elsa using the convenience of FastPass+

Still, try to allow some time during your Disney days to unplug. Silence your phone while at the pool with your family. Keep your electronic tools quiet during meals. Try taking an entire morning or evening unplugged. After the initial withdrawal, you’ll find these moments liberating.

Guests of all ages love to swim at the Nanea Volcano Pool at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
Nanea Volcano Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village.

The Road Less Traveled

While you watch the herd of guests run to their first attraction, linger on your way into the theme park. With your FastPasses pre-selected, go ahead and browse the nooks and crannies on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. Grab a morning pastry and actually sit at a quiet table while the magic wakes up all around you.

The tables outside Casey's Corner afford magical views in the early morning. A great place to bring your pastry and coffee.
Enjoy a pastry with a magical view early in the morning.

Some of my favorite pathways for calm moments at WDW include:

  • Along the boardwalk at the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom
  • In the back of Fantasyland (near the train track) to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom
  • The trails at Epcot’s Canada pavilion
  • The Hyde Park area and maze at Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion
  • The quiet nooks and crannies within Epcot’s Morocco pavilion
  • The off-the-beaten trail between Animal Kingdom’s Africa and Asia
  • The walkway between Disney’s Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian resorts
  • The walkway between Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts
  • The walkway between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness
  • The walkway from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the BoardWalk area
Stroll the boardwalk between Frontierland and Liberty Square for a relaxing morning in the Magic Kingdom.
A quiet morning in the Magic Kingdom enjoying one of our favorite walkways.

There are always secluded areas at the resorts to settle back and talk about your day.

Disney's Beach Club resort has a relaxing solarium.
Chill out at our resort; I love the Beach Club nooks and crannies for quiet respites.

Quiet(er) Meals

I can’t stress enough how important it is to dine early or late. If you are touring in the busy season, you really want to grab your quick-service lunch meals right at 11AM. This dining strategy not only saves your family from the chaos of long lines but also gives everyone a chance at unwinding in quieter restaurants. Refreshed and refueled, you’ll be back to touring the park while the crowds are at lunch.

We also like the early strategy for table service lunch as well. We were one of the first patrons at Epcot’s Via Napoli in the picture below and while the restaurant filled up quickly, most of our meal was extremely quiet.

The dining room is quiet at the start of the lunch hour at Via Napoli in Epcot.
Dine early for quiet dining rooms.

At dinner time, dine early or late. Your hotel’s food court will be chaotic after the parks close, especially when closing hours are early in the winter time. Dine before the crowds return to the resort.

All-Star Music Intermission Food Court is quiet before the parks close.
Resort dining will be more relaxing before the crowds return after the WDW parks close.

Try late night dining for empty dining rooms — whether you stop by for a full meal, snack, or beverage, quick service dining rooms are usually quiet later at night.

We like to take a breather at Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios before this restaurant closes. Watch the park’s Times Guide for official hours as this venue often shuts down before park closing time.

Backlot Express at Disney's Hollywood Studios is empty late at night.
Late night dining in crowd-free restaurants is a great chance to relax while touring.

Itinerary

Be strong. Fill out your itinerary and then check it over for downtime opportunities. If you are repeat guests, would the family benefit more from riding a couple of your not-so-favorite attractions or swimming in the resort’s pool?

Dig Site Pool, Coronado Springs at WDW
Afternoons are awesome at the Dig Site Pool at Coronado Springs Resort.

And doesn’t that apply to newbies too?! If your heart is not set on seeing the afternoon parade, maybe some time playing miniature golf or enjoying another recreational activity would be more memorable for everyone.

Relax at your resort and play a game like Twister at Disney's Pop Century.
Play Twister at Pop Century!

Take Advantage of FastPass+

Picture this: It’s early morning and my family is waiting at the gates prior to the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When the park opens, my husband “runs” to Toy Story Midway Mania for FastPasses while the rest of our traveling party grabs food at Starring Rolls Cafe (now closed) or meets in front of Tower of Terror. Yep, that’s how we used to tour.

FastPass+ and My Disney Experience (MDE) allow us to pre-plan many of our must do attractions so that we can slow down and enjoy more leisurely family time at WDW. Now, we are more likely to reserve a nice meal at the park, followed by a leisurely stroll over to our FastPass+ attraction.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, beat the crowds with an early lunch seating.
Early lunch seating at Yak and Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This strategy really works well on a day that follows a late night in an Extra Magic Hour park. We can then sleep in a bit, enjoy time at the pool, then head to a park later in the day for a meal and our FastPass+ selections. With a teen, late nights and lazy mornings work very well.

On days that we are at a park for rope drop, we are prepared with FastPass+ for morning attractions before heading back to our hotel or Disney Springs later in the day. By mixing up your itinerary, you’ll definitely discover that relaxation at Wald Disney World is indeed possible.

Disney Springs - a great place to unwind.
Plan some time at Disney Springs.

Slower Season

With the Epcot festivals becoming longer each year, more runDisney events being added, and Free Dining offers filling in the gaps, Walt Disney World seems to have three seasons: busy, busier, and busiest.

Walt Disney World is extremely crowded during the holiday season as can be seen at stroller parking in the Magic Kingdom.
December 19th crowds at the Magic Kingdom. Watch for holiday season to be super busy.

Okay, there are still a few times per year when crowds are really light. We are still fans of late January, for example.

If you can, avoid holiday school breaks as these usually cause a huge influx of guests. Don’t want crowds? Stay away from actual holidays such as New Year’s Eve.

New Year's Eve Crowd in the Magic Kingdom
New Year’s Eve crowds in the Magic Kingdom.

The Rest of the World

There’s more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than can ever be done. There’s far too much to take in here. More to find than can ever be found.” — The Circle of Life lyrics say it all.

Yes, there is more to do at Walt Disney World than touring the four major parks (Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom).

The resort hotels all offer dining and recreational fun for all ages. Take in a campfire night at your hotel or stop by a different resort for a new experience like a Pirate Cruise. The resorts are usually a refuge during the afternoon hours.

The Magic Kingdom Bus Depot is crowd-free in the early afternoon.
Escaping the parks in the middle of the day equals no bus lines and a relaxing, crowd-free resort.

Disney Springs has some of the best shops and dining choices on property. And don’t forget about the water parks and golf courses. Plus, there are out-of-the-park places to watch the high-flying fireworks if you don’t want to return to a park in the evening.

Taking in the Details

Sometimes all you need is a moment of calm in a busy day. Slow down and take in the details all around you; the creativity of the Imagineers is awe-inspiring. Don’t forget to look up, down, and all around.

Take in the beautiful scenery at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
When you sit and relax, you’ll notice all kinds of beautiful scenery.

Find a place to sit down and just gaze.

New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom feels regal and whimsical.
The regal architecture of New Fantasyland.

A walk around your resort in the late morning, afternoon, or late evening is a great time to get pictures and unwind.

Art of Animation is a fun place to unwind while taking a stroll.
An evening stroll around Art of Animation.

Recreation

Vacationing at Walt Disney World can include relaxing recreation.

Enjoy WDW resort recreation like the tennis court at Disney's Yacht Club.
Play tennis at Disney’s Yacht Club.

From running to horseback riding, you’ll find a plethora of activities to engage in throughout the resort.

Relaxing at WDW can include utilizing a New Balance Running Trail at a Disney resort.
Keep up with your fitness routine on a Disney running trail.

Adult Beverages

Let’s not underestimate the calming effect of a delicious adult beverage.

Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Adult Beverages at Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks in the Animal Kingdom.

Find an out-of-the way location later in the day — we like to sit in the back of Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe with a refreshing beverage.

Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe is a quiet place in the late afternoon to sip on a beverage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Also, resort lounges are a terrific place to hideaway while sipping on an alcoholic or non-alcoholic refreshment and/or relishing some good bites to eat.

Unwind at the Martha's Vineyard Lounge at Disney's Beach Club resort.
Stop by the Martha’s Vineyard Lounge at Disney’s Beach Club resort.

Of course, if you are on a once in a lifetime trip and your priority is to see and do everything that you possibly can, we completely appreciate that mindset. Even so, try to find small breaks to add some relaxation to your Walt Disney World vacation.

It’s your turn. How do you find relaxation at Walt Disney World? Contact Us, Friend us on Facebook, or comment below to share your Walt Disney World tips.

Kimberly LaPaglia

Kimberly shared her passion for Disney when she was selected for the inaugural Walt Disney World Moms Panel and then as the first Disney Cruise Line panelist. As a Disney Mom, she helped countless families plan their own dream-filled journeys. Blending her love for research, travel, and writing, Kim has been an editor for Disney Food Blog for nearly 8 years. At The Castle Concierge, she blogs about travel, parenting, celebrations, and the road to empty nesting.

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2 thoughts on “Relaxation at Walt Disney World: Tips for Vacationing Families

  1. We split the park day. We’ll go in the morning until after we’ve eaten lunch at the park, then it’s back to the resort. That gives my feet and legs a chance to rejuvenate while the little one swims in the pool (almost as important to her as going to the parks). When she’s had enough swimming, then it’s back to the room for a few. I can relax on the bed while she catches her favorite Disney shows on TV. Then it’s back to the park for dinner and the rest of the day’s activities.

    I take a camera for photos, but leave my cell phone tucked away. I’m not one who’s addicted to Facebook, so I’m not on my phone a lot which makes it easier. I just take the pics with my camera, then at night once the little one’s gone to sleep, I can sit on the bed and upload the photos onto my computer in a WDW album on Facebook so friends and family can see what we’d been doing.

    Oh, and we always, always, ALWAYS make Advanced Dining Reservations because we don’t want to wait hours for a table, taking too much time out of our schedule. Some places, like the Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe restaurant aren’t easy to get into (I got a reservation for Be Our Guest before I got one for Beaches and Cream….and BOG took over a month to get!) Just knowing you have a nice place to eat lined up is relaxing!

    1. Peggy, Thanks for sharing these fantastic tips. I know they will be helpful to many families planning their WDW vacations. And I love hearing how other families plan their Disney days! I’m hoping to snag Beaches and Cream for our upcoming Thanksgiving trip; fingers crossed!

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