Finding your way around a crowded theme park can feel just like trying to navigate in an unfamiliar big city. It turns out that Disney is aware of this, and they’ve built some nifty maps into the My Disney Experience app, also known as the Disney World app. I’ll walk you through some tips and tricks to use the map like a pro and find your way around in a jiffy. Best of all, you can practice most of it from your sofa so that your vacation time can be spent on rides instead of on your phone. Tap any link to go directly to that section.
The very first thing you need to know, of course, is how to open the Map. I’m assuming you’ve already got the app on your phone; if not you can search for “My Disney Experience” in your respective app store and install it. Open up the app and look on the bottom bar for the locator icon, which is shaped like a teardrop. Tap it and the map will open. The default view is a map, but you can also tap on the top right to show the locations as a list.
Using the Disney World App to Get Directions
You can use the map to get directions from anywhere to anywhere in Disney World. One of the most useful things you can do is find your way around the theme parks and Disney Springs.
Finding Directions Within a Park or Disney Springs
Pro tip before we get started: I’ve been that oblivious person standing in the middle of the walkway, trying to read the map, blocking up the traffic for people who knew where they were going. It wasn’t polite, and doing it on your phone doesn’t make it more polite. Remember to move to the side of the road before tappeta-tappeting to find your route. 🙂
Start by tapping on the location you’re trying to get to. If you tap an icon on the map, it will expand with information and you’ll see a button to tap for directions. If you’re in List View and you tap on an entry, then you’ll be taken to the attraction card and you can select “Get Directions”. You can also get to the attraction page using the app’s search feature if you find that more convenient.
After you click on “Get Directions”, you’ll need to fill in where you’re traveling from. If you’re at Walt Disney World, you’ll see your current location as an option. If you type in a location, you’ll see a list below that filters as you type. You can select your location as you see it pop up in the list.
Pro tip: If you tap “Find on Map” instead of “Get Directions”, then you’ll see the attraction marker on the map without the clutter of markers from other attractions around it. If you’ve already started to kind of know your way around, this can make it easier to get a mental fix on where something is located. Try it out!
Once you’ve finished entering where you’re coming from, you’ll get step-by-step directions. From your sofa at home you’ll only have the option to see the directions as a list, but in the parks the map will update as you walk, the same as if you use a GPS in your car.
Finding Directions to Elsewhere in Disney World
You can also use the map to get directions from one resort to another, or a resort to a theme park, and so on. But don’t be fooled. The app isn’t actually very good at this. If you’re driving, you’re better off using your GPS. And even if you’re taking Disney Transit, it’s not very smart. For instance, it knows that you can get from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary by monorail, but it doesn’t seem to know anything about the boat that you can also take. A Cast Member or someone on the Guest Experience team is a better option here, unless you’re desperate.
Looking Around You On the Map
If you know exactly what you’re looking for, sometimes it’s easier to use the List View. But the Map View is the best for looking around to see what might be nearby to you. To zoom in and out on the map, use the pinch and spread gestures; place two fingers on the screen and move them closer together or farther apart. To move around on the map and bring areas that are off the frame into view, put a single finger down and drag in the direction you want the map to go. If you zoom way, way in on the map, the names of attractions and other locations will appear. But you’ve got to get in pretty close for that.
You can also change the display to show different types of locations using the dropdown in the top center of the screen, as shown below.
One thing that a lot of people wonder when they first see the list is what the difference is between the Wait Times map and the Attractions map. And the answer is … not all attractions have wait times! Self-paced exhibits and many shows are attractions that don’t have wait times, and you’ll have to use the Attractions map if you want to see them. Tapping on any of the starred markers will open information about the attraction, the same as tapping on a wait time marker will. And by now you know that you’ll also see the option to get directions from these attraction markers. Trivia time: if you look at the map when the park is closed, the Wait Time map will be empty of markers and everything on the Attractions map will show using the same starred icon.
What You’ll See With Each Location Type Selection
Let’s go ahead and take a look at each of the different location types; they’re context-sensitive so each one behaves a little differently. In general, if you tap on an entry in the List View, you’ll open the location page. You can also open the location page by tapping the marker on the map, then tapping the pop-up outside of the Get Directions button. These location pages are the same ones that you can get to from Search, or from the Genie Tip Board or other locations in the MDE app.
Wait Times and Attractions
These maps are very similar, but the Wait Times map is limited to rides and other attractions that actually have waits. The Attractions map will show you everything that’s an attraction. (But still not everything you might expect! See Entertainment, below.) The List View also behaves differently depending on whether you’re looking at Wait Times or Attractions. The Wait Times list is sorted from lowest to highest wait time; the Attractions list is sorted alphabetically.
The List View is the most useful here. It’s sorted in alphabetical order, and you can tap on any entry to see the times for that character. Why this matters: some characters meet continuously all day, but many make only a few short scheduled appearances. Just looking them up on the map might not be enough; make sure they’ll be meeting when you get to their location.
The dining map is pretty useful. You might expect it to only show knife-and-fork markers at restaurant locations, but it’s better than that. Quick Service locations are pretty easy to pick out because they have a little Mobile Order symbol (see: How to Use Mobile Order at Disney World), and tapping the marker shows you the button to begin mobile ordering. For Table Service locations, if walk-up parties are being seated you’ll see the wait time displayed; tapping the marker offers the option to join the Walk-Up Waitlist from your phone. A word of warning: the List View for dining locations can be annoying to navigate unless you’ve filtered it to your location (see below).
One thing that a lot of people wonder about is the difference between Entertainment and Attractions. Valid! Entertainment is anything that has a showtime instead of operating continuously. So, the Hall of Presidents, where the next show starts as soon as the previous one ends, is an attraction. But the Festival of the Lion King, which has showtimes, is Entertainment. This is, sigh, a general rule that has some exceptions. For example, the American Adventure is mysteriously listed as an Attraction, even though it has showtimes. Pro tip: if you’re looking at the List View and you don’t see any times at all, it means that either it’s not offered or there are no more times that day.
One feature that you’ll want to take note of is the ability to add Entertainment to your plans. If you tap an Entertainment item, you’ll see the familiar options to Get Directions and Find on Map, but you’ll also see Add to My Day. This can be used to add a particular showing to your plans, either in the future or today.
There are several more location types:
- Restrooms (very important!)
- Events and Tours
- Guest Services
- Resort Hotels
Most of them work exactly as you’d expect based on what we’ve already seen. But I want to call out a couple of location types that don’t: Guest Services and Transportation. I’ll talk about how these are wonky in the next (Advanced Tips and Tricks) section, because many guests are going to focus on the first few location types and not run into the problems with these two.
Advanced Tips and Tricks
There are two items in this section: filters, and the wonky location types I mentioned above.
Sometimes, the map can get a little cluttered. This is particularly true if you’re using the List View, which shows you everything … even if it’s not in the park you’re in. To make the map more useful when you’re in a particular park, you can use the Filters. Tap on the top left, then select the location you’re in. These filters are persistent even if you change location type.
A couple of pro tips here. First, most filters support multiple selections – and it’s “or”, not “and”. So if you select Magic Kingdom and EPCOT in the location filter, you’ll get the sensible result of locations that are in either place. This is much better than the unfortunate outcome of finding that even Disney can’t bend spacetime and make a location be in both places at once.
Second, you’ll find that these filters are context-sensitive. So if you’re looking at Attractions, you’ll see filters based on age and thrill factor. If you’re looking at Dining, you’ll see filters based on price range, meal type (Quick Service or Table Service), or cuisine. Take a look at the filters for each location type and see how they change depending on your selection.
The Guest Services and Transportation Location Types
I mentioned above that these two don’t quite work the same as you’d expect from using other location-type selections. Both of these have the same problem. The Map View works well, but the List View doesn’t. In particular, if you select any item from the list, then “Find on Map” – you’ll end up looking at every location in Disney World for whatever you selected.
What this means for you: Let’s say you wanted to find the nearest Baby Care Center. According to everything we’ve seen on most of the locations, it should work to pick Guest Services in the dropdown, bring up the List View, tap on Baby Care Centers, and then Find on Map. Alas, no. You’ll end up with a way, way zoomed-out view of the map showing you the Baby Care Center in each park. Think a filter is going to solve this problem for you? Nope, even if you have a filter on, you’ll see the same zoomed-out view of every location.
What to do instead: choose Find Directions, and you’ll be offered a choice of which Baby Care Center to navigate to. That’s much more useful. If you have a location filter on, then you’ll only see the Baby Care Centers (or AED locations, etc.) that match your location filter.
My Disney Experience Map vs. Genie Tip Board
Before Genie existed, the map was where you went to find wait time and other information that you can now find on the Tip Board. And the map still has a tremendous amount of information that simply isn’t available from the Tip Board; if you’re not using Genie+ you may even prefer to just stick with the map. That said, there’s a lot of overlap between the two, and it can be easy to go from one to the other.
- If you open an Attraction page by tapping on the Tip Board, you’ll see the same “Find on Map” and “Get Directions” options that you’re used to seeing on the map.
- If an Attraction offers Lightning Lane and you open its page from the map, you can tap the big LL and it will open the tip board so you can view the LL times.
- If you open an Entertainment page from the map, you’ll see an “Add to My Day” option. You can use this to add a particular show to your My Day tab in Genie, the same as you would from the Tip Board.
Ultimately, the Map and the Tip Board complement each other. Which one is more useful to you depends on what you’re trying to do. It’s difficult to tour the parks these days without being “shoved” to Genie’s Tip Board and My Day tabs. But taking a bit of time to learn what you can do with the map may be worth your while for some tasks.
Do you use the map in the Disney World app? Do you wish it was better integrated with Genie? Let us know in the comments!