Magic Kingdom (MK) certainly had the most crowds of people. The other parks were by far much less crowded. They were still super busy, long lines, etc but not nearly like MK.
It can get overwhelming, frustrating and annoying, not going to lie. You don't want those things ruining your vacation. I will fully admit our first day at MK was pretty challenging... we were all in snippy bad moods, annoyed, totally overwhelmed by the crowds and how you cannot move with 3 kids in tow without feeling like you are physically bumping into someone or losing your mind! BUT the next day at another park and the rest of the week, including returning to MK for a second visit that week, we felt MUCH better. Being a little more prepared helped us tremendously. I'm hoping that a few tips here are going to help you feel more prepared and ready for the crowds of Disney.
Tips for surviving the crowds at Disney:
- Get there early. This is a MUST, especially with little kids. Whatever time the park opens, leave your space an hour before that time. You need to leave earliest for MK, as you need to park in one place, then take either the ferry or monorail to the park. It all takes time, lines, etc. It's not like other places you visit like a zoo for example where you get out of your car, park, and walk to the place in 5 minutes. Disney is NOT that way. You need about 20-30 minutes AT the parking lot to get all your gear, strollers, and get through security lines etc. So get there early and prep plenty of time ahead.
- Hit the sides- There are lines alllll through the parks. When starting out, go to the far left or right sides of lines for security checks, quick service foods, etc. because people tend to go straight to middle, so you will get in faster if you head toward the sides. We did this every single time and it worked faster for us.
- Pics- It's hard to wait for photo ops with characters. Ask ahead of time when you should be there for the character greet. The cast members will tell you. We got inside info from one and showed up and only had to wait a short time. Have one adult stand in line for pics in hot sun, other family members can roam around getting an ice cream, seeing rides near them, etc. and then when it's your turn let them in line with you.
- Mobile food ordering- DON'T wait in lines that you can avoid. There are sooo many lines in this place, so when you can possibly avoid one line DO IT. IT's EASY too! On your Disney app you can search for quick service restaurants near you and order your food. It takes about 5 minutes, then maybe 5-10 minutes later you get a message saying your food is ready... NO line. It's so quick and easy, and sooo many people do not know about this yet.
- Eat at different times- People typically have lunch at noon, so try getting your lunch at 10:45/11 or even at 2 if you had a big breakfast. Dinner time was the busiest it seemed in the park, as people want a break later in the day and to stick it out for the fireworks. So eat dinner at 4 or later at 7.
- Bathrooms- Stop at the restroom on the way into the park right away before it gets crowded. People are usually rushing to a ride or a scene to take pics, so if you stop first you'll be on a different routine than they are with visiting the restroom, making you less likely to face super long crowds later for restrooms. Also, send the kids in with Dad! Women's restrooms are typically so much longer for waits. You can look on the Disney World app for locations of restrooms, too, so that will help if there's a particularly long line in one space, you can find another restroom easy enough.
- FastPass- A MUST! See other blog post I made about using FP. This system is genius. DO NOT wait for a ride when you can get a quicker FP option for it. You can't always get FP, but TRY it. Remember to keep checking back throughout your day, as people drop options and they become available for you to pick up.
- Go the other way. Most people are heading to the right of the parks or straight to the back... try the left side for example.
- Stay late. I've heard you can get on TONS of rides at MK for example after the fireworks when most little kid families are heading home. If your kids can handle the late night, try that!
- Go on rides during parade, fireworks. If you aren't into the parade or fireworks (which you should be at least once, they're awesome!) or if you already saw them... head to the rides during those times. For example, the parade at MK is at about 3 p.m. so during that time many rides near the parade route have shorter lines since the crowd moved to see the parade. Take advantage of this and hop on a busy ride!
- Pack your own food and drinks. You will instantly avoid lines by being able to stop and eat when you want to and not wait for order and picking up food. You can find tons of little spaces throughout the park, including tables, to sit and enjoy, to take a break from crowds.
- Bring / rent strollers. Even for the bigger kids. The day we rented a stroller for our 8 and 5 year old was the easiest day in the park for us! We got everywhere faster, we were less stressed since they were contained and we weren't worrying they were wandering too far ahead of us and near strangers. Strollers really do help you get in and out of spaces easier, it's hard to navigate the actual stroller but works best with kids.
- Go on off days. I don't believe you will ever go and it will be easy to get around a Disney park or slow... but there are days that are worse than others. Check out web sites on line that track these things, for example weekend days are far busier.
- Leave midday. If you can manage this and are staying on property so it's easy to get to your hotel, LEAVE and escape the crowds a bit. We did not do this, but I've heard some people reall like this option.
The biggest thing to do when facing these crowds is to BREATHE. It's over soon, promise! The crowds are temporary. Remember not to get too caught up in how frustrating it is being wall-to-wall with people and how great an opportunity this is for your kids. Hold their hands at all times.
We ruined our first day at MK because we were not at all prepared for HOW busy the park would be. We were much happier later in the week when we relaxed a bit, slowed down, and had some plans for avoiding some of the crowds.
Here is a great video about some rookie mistakes you want to avoid when going to DW. Enjoy!