Walt Disney World (FL)

Navigating Memorial Day Weekend at WDW

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TouringPlans is pleased to welcome guest author Sara Butler.

Memorial Day marks the start of the best season – summer! And, like Olaf, I like to imagine how much cooler I’ll be in summer, especially if I’m at Walt Disney World. What better way to kick off the summer than a trip to WDW on Memorial Day?

As someone with a small Disney fixation and some free time, I’ve put a lot of effort obsessing over, er — I mean planning, trips to Walt Disney World. Over the years I’ve come to understand one universal truth about Disney World vacations: No amount of planning can control the crowds.

Therefore, friends, this isn’t yet another article about whether you should or shouldn’t attempt to traverse Disney World on Memorial Day. Instead, we’re going to adopt a can-do attitude and endeavor to understand how to best navigate Memorial Day weekend in the parks – you’re committed now. Let’s go!

Before You Go

My family looks at me kind of crazy when I start packing two months in advance for a trip to the World, but once we’re there and have everything we need. Mom’s not so crazy now – is she?

Okay, you don’t have to start packing in April to have a great Memorial Day trip, but you should make sure your park bag is ready to go with essentials the day of. A few things I never leave home without include:

  • Sunblock
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Moleskin (you can thank me later)
  • Charger for electronics (phones are a must for mobile food ordering and Magic Mobile)
  • MagicBands (if you’re kickin’ it old school)
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Ponchos
  • Extra face masks

Is there anything I forgot? If so, I just blame it on my spouse.

Get There Early

Touring at Walt Disney World has shifted a bit in the last year since reopening. While you may hear that Disney has a 35% capacity and think “Yippee! I can sleep in!” you should try very hard to ignore that inner voice. Arriving before the park’s official opening can help you get in the big E-ticket must-rides. Remember, 35% of capacity is still a lot of people.

As of this moment, for example, Magic Kingdom opens on Memorial Day at 8:00 a.m. If you’re driving, they won’t open the parking lot at the Transportation and Ticket Center until 7:00 or 7:15. If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you could probably catch a bus at 6:45 a.m. or so. I’ve heard that monorails, buses, and the Skyliner are starting about an hour before park open, too. A bus, monorail, Skyliner bucket of acrophobic anxiety, boat, or your own two feet (when applicable) from a resort can get you to the park of your choice far earlier than driving yourself, so if that’s an option I would take it. Just remember, even if the bus at your resort doesn’t arrive until 6:45 for an 8:00 a.m. opening, you still want to get in line early. Those transportation lines build fast.

Either way, get to the parks as early as your mode of transportation will allow. Trust me on this one.

Pro Tip: If you do drive, take a picture of the parking lot section where your car is. On the ground, at the end of every aisle, there’s an aisle name and number. Record it for reference later. Do not learn this the hard way.

Tour Smartly

When you get to the park you want, you should zig while others zag. For example, if you’re headed to Hollywood Studios and get there early, I would try Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway first and then head down Sunset Boulevard to Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Roller Coaster to do both of those with minimal waits. Everyone else will be headed to Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land first thing.

Creating a touring plan and optimizing it with TouringPlan’s Lines app allows you to personalize a touring strategy to fit your family’s needs with your park priorities. But I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong thinking about where everyone else is going to start and then doing the opposite of that.

Mobile Order Early

Right now, Disney wants you to mobile order at many quick service restaurants. If you’re going to have a quick service lunch in your park of choice, then try to place your mobile order first thing in the morning. Otherwise, you may find yourself hangry and without any open mobile order windows available when lunchtime rolls around.

When I first enter the park in the morning, I like to beat my family into submission (figuratively, of course) and demand they tell me what they want to eat three hours before we’re actually going to eat it. Then I choose my arrival window and place my order. It works out well for everyone.

I would also try to eat at off-peak times when possible, too. Lunch is going to be busiest around noon while dinner will be the most hectic around 6:00 p.m.

Find the Shopping Sweet Spot

If you like to shop at Disney (and who doesn’t?), then you should plan strategically for that as well. There are capacity limits in the shops right now, so you may have to wait in line. The lines are longest at the end of the day, so try to get your shop on before park closing so you can minimize your waits. But remember, you buy it, you have to carry it. They are not doing package delivery back to your resort right now so hold off on that life-size Stitch stuffy until you know you’re leaving for the day.

Sure, people may give you the side-eye when you tell them you’re going to Walt Disney World on Memorial Day but ignore them! You know the truth – any day at Disney is better than the alternative: not being at Disney. As long as you have a survival strategy, it can be the best visit yet!

Sara Butler lives in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband and two daughters. She is a professional writer and certified Disney fanatic who enjoys sharing her love of Disney with others – so much so that she helps people to plan their own vacations. Contact Sara here for help planning your next trip to Disney or Universal – she has all the insider info!

Do you have any tips for a trip to Walt Disney World for Memorial Day weekend? Let us know in the comments.



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