Last year I spent my summer working at Walt Disney World on the International College Programme.
I've just returned from another trip and thought I'd share a few tips to really make the most of your trip.
Download the App - Before you go, download the My Disney Experience App. With free Wifi in all of the parks, even those of us coming from abroad can use it with no need to worry about roaming charges. Here you can view all your fast passes, dining reservations, view menus, character times, wait times and much more.
Don't follow the crowds - At places such as bag check,main gate and quick service locations, look around before you join the line. It's amazing how many people just follow the person in front of them and join the longest line, rather than the empty line next to them. Remember security check bags on each side of the table, so choose the shorter side.
Monorail - If there's a long queue for the Magic Kingdom monorail at the Transport and Ticketing Centre (TTC) have a look at the resort monorail line. It's normally empty and will normally get you to Magic Kingdom quicker than waiting.
Make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) - There are so many different restaurants available it can be hard to decide which is best for your family. Make reservations in advance to ensure everyone is happy with the choices and you don't have hunger tantrums. All Ears are the best for up to date menu's and info on Disney Food. You can make these reservations on My Disney Experience 180 days before your arrival date.
Look at crowd calendars - I use Easy WDW for my crowd calendars. They have everything you could want from how busy the parks will be, where EMH are that day and any special events happening during your visit.
Do your research - There is so much to do at Disney, I've lived there for 6 months and still haven't done everything there is on offer. Look at the extra shows in the parks, tours you can go on, recreational activities at the resorts and even must have snacks to eat.
Water Pageant - Every night just before the Main Street Electrical Parade, there is a water pageant on the lake. It does a full loop passing Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian and The Contemporary. This is a great option if you want to watch an electrical parade but don't want to be in the mad rush to get back to the buses when it ends.
Go to water parks later in the day - Personally, I prefer to hit the water parks later in the day, missing the crowds, the 3pm storms and the heat of the midday sun.
Mini Golf - I really love the Winter Summerland course, which is great fun for a more relaxed morning/evening. Mini golf is included in the price of some tickets, so it's definitely worth looking into. If not, it's $14 for adults, $12 for children.
Package Pick up and Resort Delivery - No one likes carrying bags around the park all day. At any merchandise location you can ask for package pick up or resort delivery. You just have to fill out a form and your bags will either be waiting for you at the entrance to the park (within 3 hours) or back at your resort (by lunchtime the next day).
Extra tip: Do your big merchandise shop in the morning (the earlier the better), as this is when the shops are quietest. Then do either package pick up or resort delivery and you've saved yourself a stressful shopping trip and the hassle of trying to find somewhere/someone to carry all the bags!
Check refurbishments - There's nothing worse than someones favourite ride being closed for refurbishment when you've promised they can ride it. It's best to soften the blow before your big trip rather than when you're there. This information can be easily found online, DIS boards, All Ears and Easy WDW.
Baby Care Centre - If you've got small children this could be a lifesaver. A perfect place for toddlers to cool down whilst watching a film or reading a book. There's everything you need for your baby including changing facilities, nursing room and bottle warmers/microwave. You can also buy baby food, milk and children's medicines such as pedialyte.
Fastpass + - A pretty obvious tip but definitely use fastpass +. Especially for top attractions like Toy Story Mania and any of 'the mountains'. There's a guide to using Fastpass+ here.
Wear comfortable shoes - You don't want to end up like Gloria from Modern Family or the hundreds of people I served who had to buy flip flops/crocs after they got blisters. Please wear comfy shoes you've worn before.
Check your receipts for merchandise discounts - Every now and again you may get a 20% off coupon at the bottom of your receipts. Be careful to read the t&c's as they can only be used in certain stores at certain times.
Have meeting spots - It's so easy to get lost in the parks. Arrange a meeting spot everyone can find in case you get separated.
Ask Custodial Cast Members - Not only do they keep the parks looking spotless, they're also the best to ask about parades, rides and much more.
Refillable Mugs - Definitely an option worth looking at. Costing $17.99 for the length of your stay and as many refills you want, you can quite easily get great value for money. More information can be found here.
Free water - In all of the parks you can get yourself a cup of free iced water. At any quick service location just ask for an ice water and the cast member will be more than happy to give it to you for free.
Bonus tip: This is worth getting in the hotter months just for the ice. Rub the ice on your wrists and the back of your neck and it'll help cool your body down.
Explore the resorts - This is definitely one of my favourite things to do. The hotels at Disney are so amazingly themed they're an attraction in themselves. I'd recommend a look around The Broadwalk area, Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. There's all sorts of recreational activities to check out too.
Stay on property - I know it can seem extremely expensive at first glace, especially for those of us travelling from Europe. However if you're planning on spending the majority of your stay at Disney parks it's well worth doing the maths and your research into staying on property vs off property. I've even managed to convert my Dad to staying on property and that's saying something.
Take breaks - Avoid the midday meltdowns and head back to the hotel room if you're on property or find a quiet place to relax if you're not. I'd recommend the two rocking chairs in Liberty Square.
Don't do morning EMH - My experience of morning extra magic hours has never been a good one, get that extra hour of sleep instead. Evening EMH at Magic Kingdom however was perfect. We did everything we wanted to and never had to wait more than 10 minutes.
Write a list of things you want to do - This is always a good idea so everyone is happy and you don't leave saying "Oh I wish we could have done this".
So they're my top tips for visiting Walt Disney World. Feel free to comment if you have any other questions and I'll be more than happy to help!