Twelve Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando

If you’re planning a trip to Orlando to go to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, check out these tips which I compiled during my trip there. These are the most important things I think attendees of the Magic Kingdom should know before going.

1. FastPasses are a “must”!

I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that FastPasses are critical to having a positive ride experience during your visit unless you’re not into the most popular rides (for example, if you’re going with very young kids).

A FastPass (technically it’s called a “FastPass+“) allows you to enter a shorter and faster-moving line to the most popular attractions in the park. But, you are limited to three per day.

Disney FastPass+
Your entry card becomes your FastPass+ when you’re inside the park

Having a FastPass could be the difference between waiting three hours in line vs. 45 minutes or less. Not having one could mean missing some of your “must do” rides in the park such as Space Mountain if you only have one day at the park.

Imagine waiting in the middle of a three-hour line while people speed past you to the front using their FastPasses. We did it on Space Mountain and it’s downright demoralizing. After two hours, kids were asking their bewildered parents why they couldn’t be in the other, faster (FastPass+), line.

Disney even seems to acknowledge how critical FastPasses are when they call the regular lines “Stand By”, as if you’re a second-class citizen if you’re not using a FastPass+ on a ride.

Space Mountain stand-by entrance
Space Mountain stand-by (non-FastPass+) entrance

2. Book your FastPasses WAY in advance

That brings me to my second tip: book your Fast Passes WAY in advance!

Unfortunately, I didn’t do this. When we went, we just got our Fast Passes (using the app) at around 9:30 AM on the day we were going to the park. By that time, there were no more FastPasses left for the most popular rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. We ended up getting FastPasses for the Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and the Jungle Cruise, i.e., no high-speed rides!

You can get FastPasses up to 30 days in advance (60 if staying at the resort), by creating a My Disney Experience account. Believe me, there are fanatics who snap them up that early. So, book yours as soon as you can!

3. Get the My Disney Experience mobile app to manage your FastPasses inside the park

I had to study the night before attending to learn how FastPasses work, even though I was familiar with the old paper system at Disneyland. Once inside the park, you can manage your Fastpasses using one of the kiosks, or through the MyDisney phone app. Needless to say, using the app is more convenient (in spite of it being buggy when I used it).

To use the app, you basically scan the barcode on the back of your ticket card to add it to the app. Repeat for everyone in your party.

Once added, you can choose which rides you want to use your Fastpasses on, and keep track of what times you have to be at those rides.

Screenshot of the MyDisney app
Screenshot of the MyDisney app

I continually had the problem where the app wouldn’t show my FastPasses. At the suggestion of a Disney employee, I just rebooted the app and it worked fine. I basically had to restart it every time I used it.

4. It could take 45 minutes or longer to get into the park once you arrive, so arrive early

We took a Lyft to get to the park, avoiding the hassle of parking and taking a tram. But even after you park or get dropped off, you are separated from the park entrance by the Seven Seas Lagoon. To get across it, you either have to take the monorail or the ferry. Disney employees told us the ferry was quicker, and even then, there was a pretty long wait in line before we could get on. I estimate we had to spend an extra 45 minutes due to the lake, precious time wasted when we could have been going on rides.

So, if you want to get into the park right at opening, be sure to account for this time.

5. The Magic Kingdom has fewer rides than Disneyland

As a Disneyland veteran, I was shocked to find out that even though the Magic Kingdom is bigger, it actually has fewer rides than Disneyland in Anaheim. Some of the most popular Disneyland rides, Matterhorn, Indiana Jones, and Star Tours are missing from the Magic Kingdom.

Star Tours is available at Universal, but that requires a whole separate ticket. Why the Matterhorn is missing is a mystery to me, and I’ve been unable to find a definitive answer online.

So, if you’ve been to Disneyland, and you’re planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom expecting more rides, you might be disappointed. If you’ve been to Disneyland recently, I would skip the Magic Kingdom and attend one of the other parks at Disney World instead.

6. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is actually a roller coaster

When booking your Fast Passes, you might overlook a ride called “The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train”. Although it sounds like a slow-moving Fantasyland kiddie ride, it’s actually a high-speed coaster, very similar to Big Thunder Mountain, but smoother.

In fact, it’s the Magic Kingdom’s most popular ride, so try to get this when you book your Fast Passes!

7. Be prepared for multi-hour lines (obviously, but it’s worse than you think)

Anyone going to a Disney park knows they’re in for long lines. I used to go to Disneyland pretty often, so I thought I knew what long lines were. But I was unprepared for how long the lines actually were at the Magic Kingdom. Based on annual attendance numbers (the Magic Kingdom has more annual visitors) divided by the number of rides, the Magic Kingdom has longer lines than Disneyland does

Unless you’re just going on the kiddie rides (and even if you are in some cases), the lines will be up to three hours or more for popular rides.

We went to the park on a random Tuesday in January and the wait for Space Mountain without a Fastpass in the middle of the day was about three hours! Same for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I can’t imagine what the lines would be like on a Saturday during the summer.

I felt bad for parents of children who were hungry, cranky, or wanted to go to the bathroom. There are no refreshments or restrooms when you’re in line. Parents had to exit the line by going back the whole way, then try to re-enter past everyone in line who thought they might be cutting.

Bottom line, take your restroom breaks BEFORE getting in line, and bring water and snacks! You might want to download some games or even full-length movies on your phone to watch (remember to bring earphones).

8. Stay until closing if you want the shortest lines

When it gets closer to closing time, the lines tend to get much shorter. For example, the line for the Seven Dwarves ride during the middle of the day was almost three hours long. Twenty minutes to closing it was 45 minutes long!

Note that closing time is when they stop letting people get in line for rides, NOT when they shut down the ride. They will actually run the ride long enough for everyone in line to ride it, well past closing time.

Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom
The lines get significantly shorter near closing time

9. Bring a spare cell phone battery pack

With all of the waiting and FastPass management, you’ll use up your phone’s battery pretty quickly. So bring a spare cell phone battery pack!

Here are some examples:

If you don’t want to buy a battery pack, at least bring your charger. There are a few AC outlets in the park, especially outside of restroom areas. Worst case, you can plug in your phone to see what time your next Fast Pass is at, or to charge your phone to get an Uber home.

10. Use the free Wi-Fi

The Magic Kingdom offers free Wi-Fi throughout the park. It worked well for me, so take advantage of it, especially if your phone plan doesn’t have unlimited data. You may need it to download a movie while in line!

11. Doing multiple parks in one day is almost impossible

While planning our trip, I naively thought that we might be able to do two parks in one day by arriving right at opening time and using Fastpasses. Boy was I wrong.

With the 45-minute lagoon ferry ride on the way in, and the three hours we spent in line for Space Mountain, so much of our day was shot that it was ludicrous to think we could have done another park in the same day while still riding all of the ones we came to ride.

If you want to try anyway, just buy a single park ticket. You can upgrade it to Park-Hopper when you’re there if you have time to visit another park.

12. Take the shuttle bus to Disney Springs afterwards for better food

If you want a better selection of restaurants than what is offered inside the park, consider going to Disney Springs after your stay. We went to the Boathouse restaurant and had crab cakes by the lake with live music. It was great!

An additional advantage of doing this is that Disney offers free shuttle buses from the Magic Kingdom to Disney Springs (as well as other locations) after 4 PM. Thus, you can bypass the insane lines for the monorail and ferry that occur near closing time. That is one reason to use ride-sharing to the park instead of driving.

Anything Else?

Those are my top tips! What are your tips for attending the Magic Kingdom? Questions? Please leave a comment below. – Brian

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