One of the reasons you may want to stay at one of Disney World’s resort hotels on your next vacation are the perks that come along with being an “on-property” guest. If you shell out the extra cash and you decide to stay at a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort, then you’ll be eligible for an exclusive perk: extended evening park hours.
Gone are the days of Extra Magic Hours where all on-property guests could stay in the parks late on a designated day; this benefit is now solely for those guests staying at Disney World’s top-tier hotels. If you aren’t eligible for this perk, don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to still have the best day possible, and we’re going to tell you how to do so!
Use Mornings to Your Advantage
If you’re staying on Disney World property but you AREN’T staying at one of the Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort hotels, you’re still eligible to get some extra time in the parks!
Disney recently launched Early Theme Park Entry as a way to give ALL of their on-property guests (and some good neighbor hotel guests) some extra time in the parks each morning before the other guests arrive. Through Early Theme Park Entry, on-property guests can enter any of the four theme parks 30 minutes prior to that park’s posted opening time, each and every day.
This means you can knock out a super popular ride first thing in the morning with a much shorter wait time! This frees up the rest of your day to focus on other rides, attractions, dining, shopping, etc.
A key tip to conquering Early Theme Park Entry is to know when each of Disney World’s transportation options begin service each morning so you can arrive to rope drop in a timely manner. In some instances, you may need to use a ride share service like Uber or Lyft to be among the first guests in the park that morning, as the buses, Monorails, Skyliner, and boats may not begin operation early enough every day.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the park calendars and try to see if you can visit the parks on days when their regular operating hours are at their longest. There are some tradeoffs to this strategy, as long hours typically point to heavier crowds, but you will still have more time in the parks.
Maximize Your Time in the Park
It’s the first thing in the morning, you have your cup of coffee in your hand and your park map in the other…now what? Here are some tips for maximizing your time once you’re in the theme parks to make the most of your day WITHOUT that evening perk.
You’ll want to be aware of which activities can chew up a lot of your free time — waiting in long lines is certainly one of them, but so is dining at Table Service restaurants. If your ultimate goal is to get as much done in a day as possible, you may want to consider skipping a meal at a sit-down restaurant and opt for a Quick Service meal or a large snack instead. Take a look at the menus ahead of time and see if you would rather eat on-the-go, or if there are any particular menu items you and your family wouldn’t mind pausing your park day for.
Speaking of dining, no matter when you eat, aim to do so during those off-peak hours. Dining locations in the theme parks can get slammed with crowds during peak lunch and dinner times, which can slow you down considerably. In addition, make sure you use Mobile Order in the morning and place your lunch and/or dinner orders in early. That way, you know exactly when you’ll be eating and can plan around those times.
Plan for how you want to spend your evenings as well! You may want to consider shopping on your way out of the park at the end of the night rather than in the middle of the afternoon. Also, if you can, wait to hop in line for one of the big popular rides until the very end of the day. The lines are typically shorter right around closing time!
Finally, if you have a Park Hopper ticket, make sure you’re hopping as efficiently as possible — hopping can chew up a lot of your time when being transported from one park to the next.
Use Disney Genie
The biggest perk to Disney World’s extended evening theme park hours is that guests staying at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts can get on a lot of rides in a short period of time. But there’s a complimentary service available to everyone that will hopefully provide the same benefit.
Disney’s free service, Disney Genie, attempts to maximize your time in the parks while spending LESS time in line by providing itineraries and suggestions for how to plan your day. This is all based on real-time data and personal preferences.
Not only can Disney Genie provide you with current wait times, but it can also forecast wait times for a particular ride may be at its shortest.
Remember that this is available to all guests, regardless of where you are staying, at no additional cost. This could be an excellent way to maximize your day without having to shell out a ton of cash to upgrade your hotel!
Consider Purchasing Genie+
Would you rather increase your chances of waiting the shortest amount of time possible for your favorite rides and attractions? In addition to the free Disney Genie service, guests can now purchase Genie+, the replacement for the FastPass system.
Genie+ is a paid program that costs $15 per guest, per day. For that price, you have the ability to reserve return times for an expedited wait for many rides and attractions — similar to how FastPass+ operated. When it’s your time to hop in line, you’ll head to the ride’s “Lightning Lane,” formerly known as the FastPass queue.
Keep in mind that you cannot get a return time for the same ride more than once per day on Genie+. So, if you want to ride Space Mountain a bunch of times in one day, you can only do so once via Genie+, and the other times must be in the standby queue.
Want to ride the most popular rides, like Rise of the Resistance and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? Those rides are NOT included with the purchase of Genie+. For those select individual attractions, you’ll have to pay a separate fee with Individual Attraction Selection (maximum of two per day) — but keep in mind that you do NOT have to have Genie+ in order to purchase these “à la carte” rides.
While $15 per guest, per day is expensive and can be a hard pills to swallow if you’re used to FastPass+ being free in years past, keep in mind that this is likely cheaper than what it would cost to upgrade your hotel to a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort. See if this is in your budget and how worth it is for your family to go ride these attractions without a wait.
Enjoy a Late Night Trip to Disney Springs
If you can’t hang out in the parks for those two extra hours, there are still fun activities you can do at night! Head to Disney Springs for some late night shopping or dining.
One of the DISADVANTAGES to extended evening park hours is that dining in the parks is pretty limited during those extra two hours. So, you may find that heading to Disney Springs gives you way more dining options if you’re looking for a later dinner that evening.
Many of Disney Springs’ bars and lounges stay open late, and they’re all a great way to close out your busy day in the parks. Some shops, like World of Disney, are also open late (circling back to what we mentioned earlier of leaving your shopping until the end of the day).
Enjoy Your Resort Hotel at Night
Don’t want to travel all the way to Disney Springs at the end of the night? You can totally spend your evening enjoying your hotel instead! You’re paying for those amenities, so you might as well take advantage of them! Hop in the pool if it’s still open for a late night swim, or lounge in the jacuzzi if your hotel has one!
If your hotel has bars or lounges that stay open later in the evening, stop by for a bite of food or a drink! Like we mentioned above, this could be a better way of finding food at night as there aren’t many dining options in the parks during those extended evening hours.
And, let’s be totally honest…there’s a real benefit to being back at your hotel earlier if you want to get some extra shut-eye. A Disney World vacation can be exhausting, even for seasoned pros! Getting some extra rest by heading to bed a couple of hours earlier will probably help out a lot, especially if you have a longer vacation.
We hope these tips were helpful in planning your days in the parks if you aren’t eligible for the new extended evening park hours perk! Be sure to follow along for more Disney World tips and tricks as you prepare for your next vacation!