Is it Packed: Disney World in July

Photographed by Michael of Countdown to Magic

Your summer of fun has begun! Now that the kids are done with their summertime commitments like finishing up those last baseball games, you realize you have a couple of weeks remaining before they head back to school. 

Make the most of those hot July days by escaping to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. July is one of the hottest times of year, but you can play it cool by following a few of these Disney World tips. 

Embrace the Summer Sunshine

When planning your summer travels, you may have certain hopes or vacation goals in mind. Begin by readying yourself and your travel companions for a vacation full of all the summer sunshine you can handle.

Pack accordingly: When preparing those suitcases for the journey, be sure to load up on the essentials:

Sunscreen: This has got to be something waterproof and sweat proof. Look for an SPF of at least 50. For adults, I always recommend using the spray on sunscreen because it is a little less greasy than other applications. For children, I tend to use one of the roll-on varieties of sunscreen.

These look like deodorant or makeup tools, but they contain an easy to apply sunscreen. Using this roll-on applicator will help you make certain you don’t miss a spot on your little ones’ nose when he/she starts to squirm.

Aloe Vera: Even if all your sunscreen applications look flawless, there still may be a bit of a sting from the sun at the end of the day. Bring a travel size bottle of Aloe Vera. Tuck it in the refrigerator in your hotel suite and apply small dabs at the end of the day so every can have a little relief from the sun’s kiss.

Sunglasses and Hats: Bring one of each of these items for every member in your travel party. For small children, I like to purchase hats that have the little tie-up function available. This tiny knot or bow will go under your child’s chin and it will help the hat stay on their head throughout the day.

T-shirts, shorts, socks, and shoes: Fill up your luggage with these travel favorites. Pick comfortable, moisture-wicking styles to ensure everyone in your party will stay cool and fresh as the day turns into night.

Swimsuit: Find a swimsuit that makes you feel confident. Stow it in your bag and plan to get it out and wear it almost every day. Each person in your travel party should have at least one swimsuit handy during the month of July, because you are going to need it.

Make Plans to Beat the Crowds: Have you downloaded the My Disney Experience app onto your phone yet? If not, take a minute and do it now. This free service, offered by the Walt Disney Company, will help you organize and plan almost every single aspect of your vacation.

During the month of July, the Walt Disney World Resort is going to be very crowded. You can expect above average crowd sizes every single day in every single park. That means you have to be ready to make the most of your time so that you don’t go back home wishing you had done something differently. Here’s how to beat the crowds:

Make your FastPass+ Selections as soon as possible: Whether you use the My Disney Experience app on your phone, or you use the website available on the computer, you should log into your account and schedule your FastPass+ selections the moment they become available to you and your travel companions.

If you are fortunate enough to be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort or Hotel this means you can pick your top three selections as early as 60 days before you travel to the park. If you are not staying at the Walt Disney World Resorts, you may begin scheduling your FastPass+ selections 30 days before your vacation begins. Either way, you must figure out when your window is open and jump on it.

When you make your FastPass+ selections, think about your party and the crowds: The directions here are really two-fold. The first part requires you to consider your travel party. If you are traveling with a couple of teenagers, chances are they will not be capable of rousing themselves in the early morning and heading out to the parks, no matter how you try to bribe them in order to get things moving.

That means you should not waste your FastPass+ selections by picking out attractions or meet-and-greet sessions to visit in the morning. If you are hanging out with a group of adults, you may care to move more leisurely through the parks, and so you may want to scoop up some FastPass+ selections at the end of the day. After you have evaluated your party’s needs, think about the crowds. Here are a few things to keep in mind about the crowds.

The parks will always be the most desolate in the early morning hours. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel and you are offered “Extra” Extra Magic Hours, that means the park is only open to patrons like you from the hours of 6 a.m.-9 a.m.

This is a major perk because it means that the general public will not be allowed in the park during this time period. If you can get to the parks bright and early, this will always be the best time to get on rides and to see your favorite attractions.

The parks will always be most crowded from 11 a.m – 3 p.m: This rule is especially true over at the Magic Kingdom. This is the case because most people want to be around when the afternoon parade begins, but they may decide to leave for a little while once it is over. I have a couple of recommendations for beating the crowd during this time frame.

The first thing you can do is schedule all of your FastPass+ Selections for this time period. So, when everyone else is having to wait in line, you and your group members can coast to the front using your three choice picks. My second suggestion is to schedule a table service meal during this time. While the quick service restaurants are going to be overrun with hungry guests between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. the table service restaurants will be able to seat you with only a minimal wait time because you made a reservation.

Remember: You can make table service reservations or character dining reservations up to 180 days in advance. You should absolutely do this. Knowing that you and your family members will have a nice, quiet place to enjoy a meal come mid-day when the park is at its busiest and the sun is at its brightest will be a welcome relief for all. 

The parks will become very difficult to navigate during the nighttime spectaculars. Almost everyone loves a good firework show. The best firework displays in the world are presented at Disney Parks. That means all the people who were happily dispersed throughout the park an hour ago will now be rushing to one set place and jockeying for a position that will allow them to catch the show. Here’s a couple of ways you can overcome the crowd and get to see the show of your choice.

The first way is to arrive at the show about a half hour before it begins. If you get there earlier there is an excellent chance that you will get a good seat, but you might not necessarily end where you begin. To accommodate all guests, Disney Parks Cast Members will circulate regularly and ask people to move or squish together to allow for others to join in on the fun.

Don’t waste your vacation time sitting in a spot for an hour only to be forced to abandon it just before the show. Arrive at the show about a half hour before it is scheduled to begin and find yourself a comfortable spot. My second recommendation is to take advantage of the FastPass+ system.

Many of the nighttime spectaculars including Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Fantasmic! over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios offer audience members a chance to reserve their seats using the FastPass+ system. You should definitely do this, but don’t do it too early in the day. If you want to play in the parks all day long, don’t waste a FastPass+ selection on something you cannot utilize until the evening hours. 

Enjoy the coasters

This tip is pretty simplistic, but it works. If you don’t want to watch one of the nighttime shows, or you and your travel party have already viewed Happily Ever After a half dozen times, then head onto the rides during the showtimes.

The ride lines certainly won’t disappear, but they won’t be extra-long, either. During the time it takes for a thirty-minute show to take place, you may be able to ride two or three rides. 

Plan to stick around the parks after the nighttime shows conclude

This provision only works in some cases. Most of the time, during the month of the July the Disney Theme Parks will stay open later than usual. This can mean the Magic Kingdom is open after midnight or Hollywood Studios may be open until 10:30 p.m. If you and your crew can stand to hang out in the parks once the fireworks have concluded, you are in for a treat.

Many, many people will leave the parks after the shows are done. Those folks are exhausted, and they will be looking to head back to their hotels almost immediately. But, if you can be in the parks just a bit longer, you can have the opportunity to practically run onto the rides. I always find this is the best time to visit with theDisney World characters.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my family and I were spending time in the Magic Kingdom. We watched the Happily Ever After Fireworks Spectacular and then we thought it would be best to stick around for a little while so the rest of the crowd could thin itself.

In less than an hour, we were able to meet Rapunzel and Tiana. Then, we got to ride three other attractions. The abbreviated wait times made it so easy to slip from one experience to the next. 

A Final Word on FastPass+ Selections

If you want my honest opinion, you should try to use all your FastPass+ Selections in succession. So, if you want to start your day in the Magic Kingdom, plan to ride Splash Mountain from 9-10 a.m., Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from 10:05 a.m.- 11:05 a.m., and finish up using your first three FastPass+ Selections by heading over to get on the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride from 11:10 a.m.- 12:10 p.m.

Making your choices in this manner will guarantee that you and your group get on three of the most popular rides, and it will also cut down on the amount of time you spend traversing the parks. If you notice, those three choices are all on one side of the park, as they are in Frontierland and Adventureland.

Then, once you have utilized your first three FastPass+ selections, you and your group members will be given one more. Once that is used, you will be granted another. The FastPass+ selections are endless. Some people do not understand that concept. Yes, you start with three, but once you use those, you continue to receive one more and then another and then another until the end of the day.

There are only a few rules imposed on the FastPass+ Selection process, so once you adhere to those, you will fly through the attraction wait lines. The first rule is that you cannot schedule Fast Passes in two separate theme parks at the same time.

So, if you want to start your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and you want to end your day at Epcot, you should begin by only scheduling your passes at Hollywood Studios. Once you have used your first three passes, you can leave Hollywood Studios, go on over to Epcot and select another pass. This will keep you and your crew riding on the most popular attractions all day long, no matter which park you hop to next.

The only other FastPass+ rule you need to recognize is that each FastPass is active for one hour. You get one whole hour of beautiful time to get on the ride of your choice or to enter the queue line to see your favorite Disney characters. Don’t try to overextend yourself on these passes. If you are scheduled to be in line from 1 p.m.- 2 p.m. be there at that time.

If you try to get on the ride ten minutes early or fifteen minutes late, that just won’t work. It’s not fair to other guests in the park and you put the Disney Cast Members in a really tough situation when they have to turn you away from the attraction.

  • Do note that Disney World has removed their FastPass system in favor of a new system (a paid system, in fact) called Genie+.

Consider participating in a specially ticketed event

Since the Walt Disney World Theme Parks are guaranteed to be packed throughout the month of July, think about spending a little extra money to ensure that you and your group members get the experiences you desire.

If a member of your group is really looking forward to the Star Wars-Themed Laser Light Show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then it would behoove you to book reservations for the Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party. These parties start about an hour before the fireworks begin. At the Dessert Party, each person in your group will be able to fill up on specialty desserts, beverages, and other treats. Once the feasting is done, you will be escorted to reserved seats that will guarantee the best possible view of the show.

The cost for this experience is about $100 per person and each person must also have paid for their theme park admission that day. This spectacular dessert party is worth the price tag, if having a prime seat for the show is important to you or a member of your party. If you like the idea of doing something extra special during the nighttime hours, you may want to find out as much as you can about Disney Villains After Dark.

This relatively new specially ticketed event is held at the Magic Kingdom on select nights throughout the summer months. I find this event to be very attractive because the heat of the sun during the month of July can be blistering. When you combine that with a theme park that is crawling with tourists, you may be willing to stay up a little later in order to have some of your own time in the park away from the crowds and the sun.

The Disney Villains After Dark experience is a bit like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party except that this one is held during the summer months, like July, and it takes special care to highlight all of Disney’s villains. The cost for event tickets is about $100- $120. You and your group members do not have to purchase this ticket, plus admission to the park that day.

So, if you are looking to save a buck, opt for this nighttime event and hang out at your hotel throughout the day. Another nighttime event that may appeal to you and your party is the H20 Glow Nights featured during the months of June, July, and August at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. This event costs approximately $70 per person and that price includes a nighttime romp through one of Disney’s Water Parks.

All the attractions are open, and they are illuminated in a party-inspired way. This event is hosted by the Toy Story gang with Partyasaurus Rex leading the charge. You and your group will be able to float down the lazy river in style or tackle the Typhoon Lagoon Wave Pool with nary a fear as this specially ticketed event ensures that only extra cool kids like you are in the park after hours. Buying this ticket will most definitely help you avoid the crowds and it is a unique experience that you might not be able to get elsewhere. 

Skip the Fourth of July Independence Day Celebration

I love celebrating the 4th of July as much as any other American, but I have been to the parks multiple times on this day and have come away every time nothing less than exhausted. The Walt Disney World Resort features many, many delectable desserts and sundaes in honor of this occasion, but you can pick those up at your hotel.

Inside the parks, there are no uncommon character meet-and-greet sessions or parades. Everything runs according to plan. The only park showcasing a themed fireworks show is the Magic Kingdom.

This stupendous display is pretty cool, and it is able to be viewed from nearly anywhere in the park. The problem is that with everyone in the park able to stand wherever they like and view the fireworks this means the park is still able to be packed with people.

You may not even realize how many people are there until you attempt to leave. After the fireworks last year, my family and I stayed in the park for an additional hour because we wanted to avoid the rush to get out of the park. Even after spending that hour meeting with Mickey Mouse and riding Peter Pan’s Flight and the It’s a Small World After All ride, we still were forced to wait over an hour and a half to catch a transportation bus back to the parking lot.

If you must see the Fourth of July Fireworks, try to book a room at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel that will afford you a view. Disney’s Contemporary Resort guarantees the best view, but Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Villas, as well as Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort will also be able to accommodate your viewing needs.

Remember to Bring your Best Manners

The crowds at the Walt Disney World Resort will grow exponentially as the month of July proceeds forward. During the last week of July, you can expect wait times for popular attractions to be well over an hour.

When you are stuck in these long lines, remember that everyone around you is trying to have a good time, too. Be patient and kind. Smile through the wait and it won’t seem as long. Being at a crowded theme park will be exactly the experience you make it out to be. If you tell yourself it’s going to be great: It will be!

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