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We have all heard “go to Disney in the off season” as one of the main tips given by any Disney Blogger. There is a good reason for this- hitting up the parks during a time like Spring Break may actually classify you as INSANE! But today I want to share with you tips for surviving Disney’s on season… just in case this is when you find yourself in the parks.
I guess we are insane. We have gone multiple years during Spring Break to Disneyland, and even during the summer. It used to be these times were crowded but not awful ….but this March 2013 was different.
I don’t know if it was the fact that Cars Land opened that last June, that Thunder Mountain was closed (so many didn’t even go near that part of the park and therefore were packed more densely in other parts) or if it was because Easter fell somewhere that schools tried to plan their spring break around. I don’t know what it was, but this year was crazy packed!
You should always try to go in the off-season. But sometimes, spring, summer, or winter break are the only time a family can go. So what should you do? Should you just skip Disney? NOPE! It is totally possible to go during Disney’s on season and still have a magical vacation. It just takes a little planning, and preparing yourself for what is ahead. Check out these tips and you will be good to go.
Here are some tips for surviving Disney when it is crowded.
1) Be prepared for crowds. If you are going during the on-season, be prepared for crowds. This means preparing yourself to have long wait times (bring line activities), expecting it to take longer to walk across the park, and not being able to see everything as quickly. You need to get in the proper mind set to be able to mentally handle the parks when they are crowded.
2) Arrive to the park early- Like Rope Drop early! The day we hit up Disney’s California Adventure we were at the park 40 minutes before opening. They let people into the park about 30-60 minutes before opening (in most Disney parks) and you can then walk Main Street, Buena Vista, etc. Get to the ropes so that you can start the rides as soon as the rope drops. But don’t just hit up rides- send someone to get fastpasses for rides that are known to be out of them before noon. In DCA this would be Cars Land’s Radiator Springs Racers. If there are popular rides that do not have fastpasses- do them first. We do Fantasyland during this time, as well as Matterhorn and Finding Nemo.
3) Shows & Parades– if you are wanting to watch a show or parade in a general seating area that you can start to stake out early- do so a good 2-3 hours before the show, or wait for the second viewing. Fantasmic in Disneyland- the first show our last visit was at 9:00. We began sitting in our seats at 5:30. We like to get a table at the restaurants in front of where the show will happen. Since we want a table (so we can sit and view the show) we want it at the front, right by the walk way. So to get that we sit down to eat around 5:30 or 6:00 pm at our chosen table. After dinner we rotate who will sit and who will take kid(s) on rides. Then around 8:30 we all sit down and wait for the show to start. UPDATE: Fantasmic is now a fastpass reserved show.
4) Rotate long days with shorter days in the parks. We did our first day as our longest. We were at the park by 7 am and stayed until 10 pm. Then the second day, while we arrived at the same time, we left before 7 pm. We took a day off then did another long day (7-10) on Sunday. Monday, we were there at 7 am but left before 4 pm. It made it more bearable to do the long days first and then a short day after.
UPDATE: Another option is the mid-day break. We fell in love with the mid-day break this last March when we went. It was so nice to avoid the mid-day heat, and crowds and take advantage of the cooler and less crowded hours.
5) Try and guess which days will be the slowest. We went a Wednesday-Wednesday with 4 days in the parks. We tried to guess which days would be slowest. We went Thursday and Friday. We skipped Saturday because it is usually the worst day of the week (though that Saturday it wasn’t, probably because of weather) since locals also go. Then we went Sunday and Monday. We really expected Sunday to be quite busy, but it was the least busy day we were there. All day the wait times were manageable. It was really nice. Especially considering it was Easter. While the normal rule of thumb is that Tuesday-Thursday are the least busy days, you may luck out and find that not to be the case.
UPDATE: With block out days for AP holders often happening on Saturdays, Sundays have become pretty busy.
6) Photo taking in crowds can be a pain. You get people waking in front of you, or tons of strangers in the background. Take photos as much as possible early in the morning. We got this awesome shot only 30 minutes after the park opened at DCA. Everyone else in the park had rushed to Cars Land and we had gone over to Condor Flats and worked our way around from there. That gave us the chance to have this area completely to ourselves for this picture. How awesome is that? The picture at the top of the post (in front of the castle) was also done before the crowds got too large. We still had a lot of people in the background, but not as bad as it was later in the day.
7) Make sure everyone in your party knows where you are heading, especially children. Even though I put SafetyTat Child ID Tattoos (Multi-Design 6pk) (aff link) on the kids, I made sure the oldest 2 always knew where we were headed. They knew if we got separated, to tell a cast member they were lost and that we had been on our way to ride we were heading to. Thankfully we never needed either. You can check out our post on preparing children for the what if of getting lost HERE.
8) Take a deep breath if you start to feel stressed. It is a lot easier to get stressed out when the crowds are high. Take a deep breath and try and relax. After all, you are still in Disney.
I strongly suggest you try and go on the off-season. The crowds are so small that you don’t feel rushed, or squished at all. If you can’t, and peak season is your only option, hopefully these tips help you prepare and survive the insane crowds you might face. Do you have any tips for those brave enough to go during the on-season?
Are you heading to Disney this spring or summer? If so be sure to share your tips in the comments.
Thank you for joining me today. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.
Here is the map of our Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop – DISTherapy – Dining Tips and Tricks
2nd Stop – Love Our Crazy Life – Tips for Surviving Disneyland Crowds (You are here)
3rd Stop -Disney Mamas – Disney Spring Break Facts
4th Stop – Delightfully Disney –Spring Break Resorts
5th Stop – Return to Disney – Tips for Traveling with Large Groups
11 thoughts on “Tips for Surviving Disneyland Crowds”
Great tips 🙂 We’ve visited WDW many times, though never during peak. (We avoid like the plague!) We’re heading west this year to DL in August. It’s a cross country trek for us, so we’re taking full advantage of paying all that money for airfare! LOL! We’re doing an extended trip…longer than any other vacation we’ve ever taken…so the amount of time is more than we’re comfortable with taking our kids out of school for. The whole trip will not all be spent at DL, but 5 days will be. Since our schools don’t go back until after labor day, we hoped going the end of August would help us. The crown calendar lists August 19th as the first day of school for CA kids. Our first day at the parks will be the 18th. In Disney,w e’re always early morning people, so we’ll definitely be continuing that for this upcoming trip 🙂
It should be less busy by then.
It will feel like sleeping in to get there at rope drop with the time change and everything.
Thanks for stopping by!
We went to WDW in July once. Never again. Our October trip was great but it was a little cool at the pool and my granddaughter had to do homework everyday . This year we took all the grandkids the third week of August, staying at Wilderness Lodge. It was hot but the lines weren’t that bad. Our next trip will be next November at Wilderness Lodge for my birthday. Just my husband and myself. Can’t wait.
We avoid school breaks too – but if you look, there are out of the way spots that are usually deserted (or at least less crowded) scattered around the parks. Great when you need to step back and regroup!
Great tips! Totally agree about rope drop! Get there early, then take a break in the crazy afternoon before heading back for evening! And a break doesn’t have to mean leaving the park completely!
Great tips Becca. I really like the one about changing your week and going Wed to Wed. Thanks you for Riding the Rails with Magical Blogorail.
We went to WDW during spring break two years ago and I was actually pleasantly surprised at how NOT horrible it was (not that I’m itching to do it again anytime soon!). The most important thing I did beforehand was adjust my expectations – I knew we weren’t going to be able to get to everything we wanted to, and going into it knowing that made it slightly less disappointing when we missed some of our faves.
I kind of love these tips. I just hope I can always visit in the off season instead (it’s so much more relaxed then!