Last week I took my first trip to Disney World in a couple of years, and I was pretty shocked at how far the official Disney World app has fallen in quality. In 2019 it felt like an app for navigating the parks and managing your trip. Now it’s a hot mess that feels a bit like an endless advertisement with some trip management functions tucked into the corners.
The good news is that most of the same features are still there, they just don’t feel quite as convenient if you have to find them by scrolling through eight screens to locate the right panel. If you’ve got an upcoming trip, read on to see how to quickly access the most useful features of the app, without the scrolling.
All Three Useful Taps In One Screenshot
When you first open the app, you’ll be on the Home screen — notice that the home icon is lit up on the bottom in the screenshot to tell you which screen you’re on. If you don’t remember anything else from this post, remember this: those three most useful taps are all on the bottom icon bar. I’ve circled it in the screenshot below, and as we go through I’ll talk about what each of these buttons does.
Tap the Dropped Pin for Wayfinding
I admit, I’m not sure the official name of that icon is a dropped pin, but that’s how I think of it so for today that’s what we’ll be calling it. Tapping the dropped pin brings up a map of the Walt Disney World Resort and gives you access to all sorts of cool navigation tools. If you’re on the resort proper you can access this same map by clicking the Explore the Resort panel at the top of the Home screen, but if you’re staying offsite or you haven’t allowed location services for the app, you’ll have to click the pin to get to it.
When you first click on the dropped pin (or the Explore the Resort panel), you’ll see the screen in the middle above showing wait times on a map. The standard swipes for zooming in and out work here to let you adjust the size of the map. You can also bring up the same info as the scrollable list shown in the right panel; just tap Show List on the top right. Pro tip: the fastest way to re-center the map to a different park is to use the Filter button on the top left to select the park you want to see. It’s also useful to put a filter on if you’re using the list and only want to see wait times from the park you’re in. (Of course, if all you want to see is wait times, the Lines app will give you more accuracy than Disney’s posted waits.)
If this wait time display was all that the map did, it would be pretty useful. But wait, there’s more! Clicking the dropdown next to Wait Times opens a list of additional location types that you can show on the map (or in the list). Selecting dining, for instance, will display icons for available eateries. Restrooms will show you — you guessed it, the location of restrooms. No matter which category is displayed, clicking on individual icons or list items will pop up more info with context-dependent links. As an example:
- Clicking on the icon for Crystal Palace offers you a link to join the walk-up waitlist
- Clicking on the icon for Pecos Bill’s offers you the option to start a Mobile Order
- Clicking on the icon for a restroom offers you the option to Get Directions.
Tap the Plus to Add New Stuff
If you’re looking to add anything new to your vacation, your first stop should be the Plus tap. Even if it’s only a lowly Park Reservation, having more plans than you did before is plussing up your trip, right?
The Plus is located in the center of the icon bar, but clicking it brings up the menu seen on the right as a pop-up, and the bottom icon bar disappears completely. Click Close at the bottom to return to the regular screen.
If you’re looking to eat at a specific restaurant there are other ways to use the app to find a reservation. If you’re just looking to see what’s out there, Check Dining Availability is the only way to do a general search across all restaurants to find available tables. Of course, you can still use this for specific restaurants as well.
Unless you’ve been browsing around the map, Order Food from the Plus screen is the fastest way to start a mobile order. You’ll go directly to the arrival time selection page without any additional clicks, and if you have GPS enabled then locations near to you will automatically show at the top of the list.
The big “addition” that you can’t make from this screen is a Virtual Queue reservation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that appear in the future as Virtual Queues become more widespread. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see an option to add Lightning Lane reservations added to this screen as Genie and Genie+ roll out. There used to be an option to add FastPasses here before they were retired, so that seems a logical replacement workflow.
Tap the Hamburger for Existing Stuff
Tickets and Passes lets you view tickets for everyone in your party. If you have an Annual Pass and you want to show it for a discount, this is where you’ll go. You can’t buy tickets and passes here, you can only do that via the Plus.
Virtual Queues is the exception that proves the rule. This is not only the way to view any virtual queues that you have already joined, but also the only way to add yourself to one.
My Plans lets you view all your upcoming park passes, restaurant reservations, and resort reservations. Presumably Lightning Lane reservations will also appear here in the future.
Photos allows you to browse, edit, and download your PhotoPass shots, if you have purchased Memory Maker or have it enabled through an annual pass.
Resort Hotel is the gateway to several useful features, including the ability to unlock your door, view your bill, or see bus times.
If you’ve already made a Mobile Order, this is the place to check the status. You can also start one from here, but it’s a few clicks more than going through the Plus screen.
If you’ve come to Disney with no advance research, the “advertising” panels you scroll through on the Home screen might offer useful information to help you get oriented, and they definitely might alert you to stuff you didn’t realize you ought to have already done. But if you’ve got the basics of Disney down, you’ll likely find it more efficient and useful to ignore the Home screen altogether and stick with the other options accessible from the bottom bar.
What’s your favorite tip for using the Disney World app? Let us know in the comments!