Hannah’s Walt Disney World Tips for Non-Resort Guests

Your Disney trip is almost here – YAY! You have opted to stay off-property which has some disadvantages, but I have included my pro tips to help make your vacation as seamless and stress free as possible. (updated February 14, 2022)

Pro Tips: 

  • Keep an eye on park hours. Disney might extend the hours and or even change them on a daily basis.
  • Take advantage of Mobile Ordering at Quick-Service locations! Try to avoid peak rush hours (11:00AM-1:00PM and 5:00PM-7:00PM). Try to eat before or after those times! Mobile order early to reserve your slot. This can always be modified.
  • Most Table-Service restaurants allow you to check in for your reservation on the My Disney Experience (MDE) app. This will alert the host that you are there and ready to be seated.
  • You are going to be waiting in line for SOMETHING so it’s a good idea to have a plan for how to pass the time like:
    • Play Disney Parks app 
    • Heads Up or other mobile based games
    • Activities or toys for children 
    • Speak to other humans
  • Make a list of your must do’s in the parks and make a plan based on those.
  • Plan to rope drop to maximize your park time.
  • Do long air-conditioned theater shows in the afternoon to avoid heat and rain during the summer.
  • Always pack your rain gear.
  • Leave and get some relaxation time outside the park in the afternoon.
  • Choose your fireworks spot early.
  • If the park doesn’t close right after fireworks – stay and squeeze in another ride or two to avoid long transportation lines. 
  • Get to the park early regardless of whether you’ve purchased Genie+ or not. 
  • Get in line for popular rides last thing at night. As long as you are in line one minute before the park closes, you can still ride no matter how long the line is.
  • If you don’t want to wait in the long Starbucks line, mobile order Joffrey’s coffee from select locations! 
  • Wait times are fairly accurate; however, it is an approximate wait time so there is always the chance of times swinging in either direction.

Park Specific Tips

  • Magic Kingdom: The best way to have a great Magic Kingdom experience, whether you purchase Disney Genie+ or not, is to go in with a plan.
  • Epcot: Non-Resort Guests might actually be worse off by Rope Dropping Epcot. Try the front half of the park later on in the afternoon while others are eating and drinking around World Showcase. If Frozen Ever After is a priority for your family, make sure you have a plan if you don’t want to purchase the Lightning Lane. 
  • Animal Kingdom: As the day goes on, Avatar Flight of Passage and Kilimanjaro Safaris can get very long waits, so getting them done early will usually save you time. Even if you are purchasing Genie+, the animals are generally more active in the morning hours and it can make for a better experience to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris when you first arrive at the park. 

Disney Terminology:

  • Rope Drop = arriving at a Disney park prior to the official park opening for the day.
  • Disney Genie = a free service in the My Disney Experience app offering things like the Tip Board and customizable itineraries.
  • Disney Genie+ = the paid version of FastPass+. It costs $15/ticket/day and allows you to skip the line at 40+ attractions across all four parks.
  • Individual Attraction Selections = two rides in each park that are not included in Disney Genie+ that are an additional fee. 
  • Single rider = a separate entrance at select attractions. Your party WILL be split up as you fill in with odd-numbered groups. It’s usually faster than standby, but possibly not during peak season.
  • Early Theme Park Entry = a perk of staying in a Disney Resort hotel – allows you early access to the parks and select attractions. 

Other things you should know about Walt Disney World:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure are no longer using a virtual queue. You can experience the attraction using a traditional standby queue or by purchasing access to the Individual Lightning Lane.
  • Fireworks have returned to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Hollywood Studios has two projection shows at night.
  • In order to enter a park, you must have valid ticket admission AND a Park Pass reservation.
  • Character meet and greets are now called “Character Sightings” and are available in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. This allows you to have one on one time with a character from a distance.
  • The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is running January 14 through February 21 and is included with your ticket.
  • If you have little ones, take advantage of the Rider Switch Service. Rider Switch allows an adult Guest to wait with a child unable to ride an attraction and then board the attraction without waiting in line again.
  • Enhanced cleaning and housekeeping modifications are still in place.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will continue to be available.
  • If you are staying in a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel, be sure to pick up your physical tickets from the front desk and scan them into your MDE account.
  • Parking lot booths at the theme parks open about 45 minutes before the park officially opens. I recommend arriving about an hour before the park opens. If you arrive any earlier than that, they will turn you around.
  • Face coverings are optional in outdoor common areas, outdoor attractions, outdoor queues, and outdoor theaters. Face coverings are still required while indoors and on enclosed transportation, regardless of vaccination status. 

Quick-Service Recommendations:

Magic Kingdom:

  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Columbia Harbour House
  • Casey’s Corner

Hollywood Studios:

  • Baseline Taphouse
  • ABC Commissary
  • Woody’s Lunch Box

Epcot (I recommend eating at the festival booths, but have included quick-service options, as well):

  • Boulangerie Pattiserie les Halles
  • Sunshine Seasons
  • Regal Eagle Smokehouse

Animal Kingdom:

  • Satu’li Canteen (best quick-service in all of WDW)
  • Nomad Lounge
  • Flame Tree BBQ

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