How to Deal With… Spring Break Crowds at Disney World
Spring Break is one of the most popular times at Walt Disney World, but it is also still a ton of fun! The parks are usually open later, the characters are out, and magic is amazing as always. The crowds can intimidate people, but you can definitely survive the crowds and still have a fantastic time with your family. Here are twelve tips for how to deal with the crazy spring break crowds.
In 2023, there are two specific weeks that you’ll want to take note of — March 12-March 19, and April 2-9. While all of March and April are very busy, those two weeks will have crowd levels near Christmas week levels. If you’re visiting during those two weeks, be prepared for long wait times everywhere, including attractions, dining, and transportation. It can still be a great week, but you’ll want to go in with proper expectations, so you are not totally disappointed.
12 – Make Your Park Reservations as Soon as Possible
Park reservations are required to enter all theme parks, and you will not be able to enter a park without one. During very busy times, like spring break, certain days will fill to capacity and sell out. You can check park availability by clicking here. Make sure you can visit the parks during your vacation. It is not unusual during holiday weeks for parks to be sold out in all ticket categories over the weekend. Your pleas to Guest Relations will not work. You must have a reservation; if you don’t have one, you’ll be out of luck. Don’t be in that position. Make your park reservations now!
11 – Make Your Dining Reservation as Soon as Your Window Opens
If you don’t already have dining reservations, make selections ASAP! Snagging dining reservations at popular restaurants has become very difficult under normal circumstances and during the busy spring break time, many of the restaurants won’t be accepting walkups because of how busy they are. You may need to eat at less popular restaurants, restaurants at the resorts, or just dine at quick-service restaurants. There are many great options at the resorts, and many of them can be easier to get into. Keep checking for reservations regularly, as there will also be many guests that are dropping reservations they decide they don’t want. You will be thankful for a couple of meals where you can get out of the sun, get off of your feet, and have a delicious meal to break up the crowds in the parks.
10 – Consider Purchasing Lightning Lane Access
Look, we’re not fans of the new Lightning Lane at all. While guests are using it, they are not happy about it. During the busy spring break period, you’ll likely feel the need to purchase either Disney Genie+ or the A la Carte Individual Lightning Lane attractions. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Lightning Lane is the old FastPass lane, but now you have to pay for it.
There are two different paid options that you can choose (along with different attractions) to access it. The first option is to purchase Disney Genie+ for a day or each day of your visit. It costs anywhere from $15-$29 per person per day. With Genie+, you can access the Lightning Lane at select attractions at each park (one at a time and once per day). There are over forty total Genie+ attractions. The second option is to purchase Lightning Lane with the a la carte method for individual attractions. A few attractions at each park are NOT included with your Genie+ purchase. They must be purchased separately, and pricing ranges from $7-$25 per attraction, per person. You can see that by doing some quick math, purchasing these options for a family of five dramatically increases the cost of your vacation.
While some have reported great success with using Genie+, many guests have been frustrated with the fact that they must be up very early every morning (see #9) to purchase and/or choose their first Lightning Lane selection, and they need to be glued to their phones all day. They are also not getting as many selections as they expect, leading to additional frustration. Keep in mind that you do not have to purchase either of these options, as the standby queue is available to all guests. Just be prepared that you’ll have very long wait times across the parks and on certain attractions, such as Space Mountain and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, where only one side/track may be available to guests who aren’t willing to pay twice to enjoy the attractions. This is making wait times even longer than you might expect. Learn more about Genie+ and Lightning Lane by clicking here.
9 – Set Your Alarm and Be Ready to Go at 6:55 am for Lightning Lane Selections and Virtual Queue
If you plan to use the Lightning Lane during your vacation, you need to be prepared for (very) early mornings. For Disney Genie+, at 7 am on the day of your park visit, within the My Disney Experience App, you’ll book your first return window at one of the Genie+ attractions. After that, you can make one selection at a time, based on availability. Also, at 7 am, Disney Resort guests can purchase their Individual Lightning Lane selections while non-resort guests have to wait until park opening. Even if you are staying off property, you’ll need to get up early and make those Genie+ selections.
Here is why it is so critical for you to get up early and make them right at 7:00 am. The most popular Genie+ attractions will fill to capacity very quickly, sometimes in the first hour. Want to ride Slinky Dog Dash? You’ll need to try to get that one first. The longer you wait to make your selections, the greater the chance that there won’t be any good choices later on because let’s be honest, you don’t need to use Genie+ for Journey Into Imagination with Figment, but that might be the only available attraction for you to choose. And for those coveted Individual Attractions that you need to purchase a la carte, being a resort guest can sometimes be the only way to purchase them. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance often sells out before park opening–meaning non-resort guests don’t even have a chance to purchase access. You’ll need to be prepared to purchase access as soon as your window opens.
If you plan to make both your Genie+ selections and a la carte selections at 7:00 am, divide and conquer. Have one person make your Genie+ selections and have the other purchase the Individual Attractions. Those few minutes could make a huge difference on your day!
The Virtual Queue also opens at 7:00 am for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Again, it will help if one person in your party tries to join the queue and others work on Lightning Lane selections!
8 – Take Advantage of Early Theme Park Entry (or Get to Parks at Park Opening)!
One of the most recent additions to Disney resort guests’ benefits is the replacement of Extra Magic Hours with Early Theme Park Entry that works differently than the previous version. This benefit allows resort guests to enter any theme park thirty minutes early. Thirty minutes might not sound like much, but it’s just enough time to get in line for those super popular attractions and (possibly) avoid having to pay for access to the Lightning Lane.
We recommend heading straight to attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Avatar – Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. At official park opening, these attractions will already have wait times anywhere from one to two hours and they will get even longer as the day goes on. If you’re not a resort guest, we still recommend getting to the parks at park opening. The crowds will be moderate as opposed to the crazy high crowd levels that will ensue later in the day. You will also get ahead of the lines for the buses and other Disney transportation by arriving before park opening, and you get to enjoy cooler temps. It is a win-win all the way around, even if it means that you don’t get to sleep in. It is worth it! You can nap later!
7 – Stay Out Late
On the flip side, after the first one to two hours in the park, the second slowest time will be leading up to park closing. Many guests or their kids will tire out and won’t make it all the way until the end. That means shorter lines and more fun for you, plus the sun is gone, and you can enjoy the cooler night air. If you can hang out all the way until the close, you can experience attractions, shop, and explore with a little more freedom.
6 – Consider Mid-Day Breaks at Your Resort
Very few people have the energy and stamina to stay in the parks from opening to closing every day of their vacation, and taking mid-day breaks may be just what you need to get through your week. Also, with the crazy crowds, you will really appreciate pool time and recreation time at the resort. The pool will let you cool off and relax your feet for a while. You should also consider taking a nap in the middle part of the day. The temps will be at their hottest then, and the crowds will be at the busiest in the parks. If you go early, take a nap and relax at the resort in the middle of the day, then you are rested up to go back out in the evening. It helps you get the most out of your day without tiring out too fast! Find out how to have a staycation at your resort!
5 – Consider Watching the Fireworks from a Disney Resort
The fireworks are absolutely amazing but don’t think you can only see them from within the parks. There are many great places to watch them that won’t leave you in the crazy sea of guests that can be overwhelming for even the most patient of people. You can watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from The Contemporary, the Polynesian Village Resort, the Grand Floridian, Fort Wilderness, and the Ticket and Transportation Center. The music is even piped in at certain outdoor spots and restaurants within the resorts, so you get the full effect of the show. The Electrical Water Pageant will also come by those locations, and you won’t want to miss it! You can also see the Hollywood Studios and Epcot fireworks from the Boardwalk and the Yacht & Beach Club resorts, and they are also amazing shows!
4 – Stay Hydrated
It is typically warm during spring break in Florida and most likely warmer than where you are coming from. It is easy to get dehydrated, so make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and fluids to counterbalance all of the walking in the sun that you will be doing. If you are worried about paying for water bottles while in the parks, you have a couple of options. You can bring in your own water or even better, get free cups of ice water from quick-service locations. Look for locations that offer fountain beverages, and they will be able to give you cups of ice water. You don’t even have to purchase anything to get them.
3 – Consider Renting a Car
Normally we’re all about using Disney transportation. It is fun, and efficient, and you don’t have to do any driving or navigating. Well, this is one time that we would suggest driving yourself unless you plan on drinking a lot. With the crazy crowd levels, the transportation lines will be very long. You will be able to get exactly where you want to go when you want to go there without spending as much time waiting on transportation. It will also give you the freedom to dine off-property if all of the reservations are gone.
2 – Don’t Forget About Resort Activities
There are so many amazing activities that go on at the resorts. While everyone is fighting the crowds in the parks, you can have a ton of fun with your family at the resort. You can rent boats, bikes, surreys, and many other things that are great fun and another way to explore Walt Disney World Resort. There are also nightly campfires and movies under the stars at most of the resorts, which are free and so much fun. Check out the guide they give you when you check in and plan to experience some of the various events. It’s a great break from the parks and still a completely magical experience. Read about Disney’s best recreation options, including our favorite resort Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort.
1 – Be Patient and Nice
We can’t express this enough. Stay calm and positive while you deal with the crowds, the heat, and the waits. You are there to have a magical time with your family, and don’t let anything get in the way of that! It’s not worth getting worked up and wasting any of the magic and fun being upset or grumpy about things you can’t control. Smile and greet cast members and other guests, look for hidden Mickeys, and just focus on having the time of your lives.
Editor’s Note: DisneyLists.com author Kristin also contributed to this article.
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