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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Chill out at our resort; I love the Beach Club nooks and crannies for quiet respites.
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.
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.
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.
Late night dining in crowd-free restaurants is a great chance to relax while touring.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Plan some time at Disney Springs.
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.
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 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.
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.
When you sit and relax, you’ll notice all kinds of beautiful scenery.
Find a place to sit down and just gaze.
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.
An evening stroll around Art of Animation.
Vacationing at Walt Disney World can include relaxing recreation.
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.
Keep up with your fitness routine on a Disney running trail.
Let’s not underestimate the calming effect of a delicious adult beverage.
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 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.
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.
Ten Ways to Increase Your Magic Kingdom Experience
Let’s face it. Any day at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World is… well, a really good day. With thrill-seeking rides and family-friendly entertainment, the park never fails to amaze first-time visitors and multi-visit veterans.
Whether you are on your first or fiftieth visit, there are always more ways to increase your Magic Kingdom experience, including Overlooked and Underrated Attractions.
Your Magic Kingdom experience can be enhanced with these ten suggestions. Read on!
Take a Tour
Behind the scenes tours (from a Family Magic outing to a complete VIP extravaganza) cost extra but can really add to your Magic Kingdom touring experience. Call 407-WDW-TOUR to find the perfect add-on tour for your family!
VIP Tour Guide at Walt Disney World
Reserve a Fireworks Dessert Party
Tomorrowland Terrace features dessert parties on select evenings of the year. Choose from patio seating on the terrace or Plaza Garden viewing where guests stand in a priority location. This add-on experience includes delicious desserts. Theme park admission is also required so you’ll want to add this party to a day and/or evening that you know you’ll be touring the Magic Kingdom.
Desserts at Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Free with your Magic Kingdom admission, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is an interactive game that takes guests of all ages on a scavenger hunt. By casting Merlin’s magical spells at Magic Portals, you’ll help conquer Hades and become an apprentice sorcerer. Sign up at the Firehouse on Main Street, U.S.A. for your starter pack. If you get hooked on the game, you may want to purchase extra sorcerer cards.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas
Help Captain Jack by discovering 5 treasures hidden throughout Adventureland. Sign up at The Crow’s Nest to begin your raids. Collect all 5 treasure finder cards and you’ll receive a collector card signed by Jack Sparrow! Fun for all ages.
Get your treasure map!
Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial
Speaking of that famous pirate, Captain Jack hosts a pirate tutorial throughout the day in Adventureland. Check your Times Guide or My Disney Experience app for times.
Nic participating in Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial.
Apprentice Pirate certificate.
If your child wants to learn sword fighting, I suggest arriving early and have your child enthusiastically wave their hands to join the fun! If they aren’t picked the first time, go back for a later show. You’ll have better luck at the first show of the day as well as the show that takes place while crowds are waiting for or viewing the afternoon parade.
Attend a Holiday Party
After-hours parties are a terrific way to see the Magic Kingdom from a new perspective. All decked out in holiday decor with special treats and shows, the Magic Kingdom becomes even more unforgettable on party nights. Try Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We like to attend on a day that we’ve taken off from the parks; visit Disney Springs, relax at our resort, and then be sure to stay to the party until the end when crowds are at their lowest.
Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Seek Out the Nooks and Crannies
If you race from ride to show without soaking in the details of the Magic Kingdom, you’ll have missed out on some of the most magical qualities of this iconic park. Even the quick-service restaurants have some special nooks — we love sitting upstairs at Columbia Harbour House and Pinocchio Village Haus. In the back of the Crystal Arts shop, you’ll find fascinating glass blowing demonstrations.
Sit upstairs at Columbia Harbour House for a relaxing respite.
Relax in rocking chairs in Liberty Square.
Be sure to stop and watch some of the street performers throughout the day. The Dapper Dans, Main Street Philharmonic, and Citizens of Main Street are extremely talented and worth watching.
The Dapper Dans performing during the holiday season.
Skip the FastPass… what?!
Sometimes you should skip the FastPass+ for the iconic rides with stellar queues. For instance, Peter Pan’s Flight has an interactive queue that will be missed if you only go on this ride via the FastPass entrance.
Watch for Tinker Bell!
Electrical Water Pageant
Think the fun is over as you exit the gates? It doesn’t have to be. Time your exit to coincide with the Electrical Water Pageant. Taking place on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, the barges pass by the Magic Kingdom (usually about 10:35PM) when the park is open late.
The iconic Electrical Water Pageant.
What extras does your family enjoy in the Magic Kingdom? Contact Us, Follow Us on Twitter or comment below to share your ideas!
Walt Disney World Hotel Perks Offer Extra Magic
While we’ve stayed a few times off-site of the Walt Disney World property, we love the perks that guests receive when staying at a Walt Disney World (WDW) resort. My favorite reason for choosing an onsite hotel is the total Disney immersion; leaving the real world behind is an important factor for making the most of our family vacations. But there are even more benefits to staying at a WDW hotel.
Disney Magic Around the Clock
Travel under those beloved arches and you’ll be inside The Disney Bubble. Sounds weird to first time visitors but soon enough, you’ll know what your friends have been talking about. Total Disney immersion is a good thing for fans of Walt Disney World.
Disney World resorts have immersive themes!
What does this really mean?
Cast Members (Disney employees) handing out stickers to your kids (or you!), food shaped liked Mickey, housekeeping’s unique towel art, character wake up calls, and themed resorts (landscaping, pools, stores, restaurants, rooms) all reflecting their own special Disney ambiance.
Mickey Towel Art!
All you really need to know is that if you feel your real life worries have been whisked away AND you start singing silly Disney songs, exclaiming “Hakuna Matata” or “Jambo” to family members, and you find a Mickey Ears hat atop your head, you are surely experiencing vacation inside the Disney Bubble. And trust me, you don’t want any real life stress to pop that thing!
Life in the Disney Bubble!
Did you fly into the Orlando International Airport (MCO)? If you are staying at a WDW resort, you’ll be able to take Disney’s Magical Express to your hotel. Disney’s bus transportation service also includes complimentary luggage transfer. I love checking in my luggage at my home airport and seeing those same bags (that I’ve over-packed!) magically appear in my WDW room on Arrival Day.
Disney’s Magical Express provides transportation between WDW Resorts and the airport.
Once you are at your WDW hotel, you’ll be able to travel throughout the entire property via Disney transportation.
WDW Transportation includes buses and monorails!
This may include buses, boats, and monorails. WDW transportation can sometimes be time-consuming but it’s nice to have someone else cart the family around.
Ride the WDW Monorail.
Another one of my favorite perks is Resort Airline Check-In. If traveling on a participating airline (Alaska, American, Delta/U.S. Domestic Flights Only, JetBlue, Southwest, and United), your family can turn in suitcases to this designated spot at your WDW resort and your luggage will be transported for you — in reverse — all the way to your home airport.
Resort Airline Check-In is WDW hotel perk.
Considering that your bags are now heavier due to those irresistible Disney souvenirs, this service is a tremendous Walt Disney World resort perk. After all, my favorite carry-on Weekender Bag can only hold so much.
Disney Restaurants and Reservations
Want to dine at Be Our Guest Restaurant? Utilizing this benefit will be key to helping you obtain those hard-to-get dining reservations at the most popular Walt Disney World restaurants. So, how does this perk work?
The Rose Gallery at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Make an Advanced Dining Reservation!
Advanced Dining Reservations at WDW restaurants can be made 180 days prior to the date that you wish to reserve. Do you need to count the days? No. For years, I have used this handy tool.
The advantage for WDW Resort guests is that they can make a dining reservation 180 days prior to their check-in date PLUS make reservations for their entire stay (up to 10 days). No need to wait until the 180 day mark to reserve the buffet at Chef Mickey’s for the last morning of your vacation.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation for Chef Mickey’s.
I don’t know what it is — maybe the Mickey-shaped waffles? — but even dining at a value resort’s food court is more fun than a value meal off-site.
Mickey Waffles — delicious for all ages!
And certainly, the resort sit down restaurants serve up delicious eats with interesting decor.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at your resort hotel.
Off-site guests can dine at all restaurants on property (exception: pool bars with guest-only access), however it’s convenient to have these dining choices at your resort for breakfast, a mid-day meal, dinner, and/or a late night snack.
Disney Dining Plan
A Disney Dining Plan can be added to your hotel reservation. Some families like the convenience of pre-paying for their meals. If you book your trip with a Free Dining offer, you may save some serious cash off of your total vacation budget. Watch Disney’s Special Offers!
Adding a Disney Dining Plan to your WDW vacation package is a convenient way to pre-pay for your meals. No matter how it’s paid for, I love the Sweet and Sour Chicken at Yak and Yeti!
Our family prefers the flexibility of paying out-of-pocket so the value of this benefit depends on your vacation style.
If you find the perfect souvenir on your way to your FastPass+ at Expedition Everest, you may want to take advantage of Package Delivery.
Have your purchases sent to your Disney Resort.
You’ll have two options — pick up the package at the front of the park (for ALL theme park guests) or have it delivered to your Walt Disney World hotel’s gift shop. Either way, your hands are free!
Package Pick Up is available to all guests at Disney theme parks.
For an additional fee, you can have your treasures shipped home.
What are those colorful and waterproof bracelets that Disney guests are sporting? Well, they are not exactly the latest fashion craze. However, they are quite the magical tool given complimentary to WDW resort guests and annual passholders.
Believe it or not, those MagicBands are the key to Magical Express transportation, FastPass+ reservations, and theme park entry. Plus, guests can use their MagicBand to open their hotel room door, pay for purchases and dining, store Disney PhotoPass pictures, and more!
Use your MagicBand for access to the exclusive pool at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club.
Off-site guests can purchase bands after arrival.
Scan that band at any restaurant or store and you’ll have your purchases added to your hotel’s room account (if you’ve set up room charging privileges). This is part of the Disney Bubble that you have to be careful with as it’s easy to overspend. The convenience however is priceless.
Our teen son has been charging his food (and some souvenirs) to our room for years.
Buying a shirt with MagicBand!
Now, we don’t have to worry about lost room keys with charging privileges. It’s reassuring to know that the MagicBand is safe on Nic’s wrist for when he’s out exploring on his own and needs a beverage, snack, and/or meal.
Extra Magic Hours
With your Resort ID/MagicBand and a theme park ticket, your family can enjoy some extra time at select attractions in the parks. Check the official WDW calendar for morning and/or evening Extra Magic Hours being offered during your visit.
Watch for Extra Magic Hours.
Usually one park per day has extra hours in the morning or evening for resort guests.
We love early morning Extra Magic Hour at the Magic Kingdom!
Early FastPass+ Planning
A very handy perk is the ability to reserve select shows and attractions early. Using the My Disney Experience app or online tool, link your WDW hotel room and theme park tickets. After, you’ll have up to 60 days (30 days for off-site guests) before arrival to pre-book up to 3 FastPass+ experiences at one theme park per day. With early access to FastPass+ planning, you’ll get better availability and more of your preferred times.
Meet Anna and Elsa using the convenience of FastPass+
Want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania right before your dinner reservation? Just reserve an appropriate time. No need to run there first thing in the morning!
When our child was younger, we took advantage of the childcare facilities at Walt Disney World. Check in your child with well-trained staffed while you enjoy a date night, business meeting, or run a Disney 5K!
Lilo’s Playhouse is the Children’s Activity Center at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Kids are even provided a meal of their choice.
Walt Disney World is home to three championship golf courses. As a Disney resort guest, you’ll get advanced tee times as an added benefit.
Theme Park Admittance During High Crowds
You may have heard tales told of the Magic Kingdom closing due to high capacity. It’s true; I’ve seen it. If you are a resort guest, you’ll have preferred admittance once space is available! This is important on holidays such as New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve crowds in the Magic Kingdom.
Certainly, staying at an offsite hotel will cost less and you’ll likely get a larger room too. If this option suits your family’s budget best, I wouldn’t let it deter you from visiting Walt Disney World. You can have a magical visit while staying off-property.
However, if your budget allows, we recommend staying on-site at a Walt Disney World resort!
What are your favorite Walt Disney World resort perks? Are you staying onsite or offsite on your next trip?