My teen son and I are planning a Disney World trip at the end of the month. My son has always suffered from anxiety in large crowds. Do you have any suggestions on how to control my son’s anxiety in the large Disney crowds and make this an enjoyable trip for him?


There are more crowded and less crowded seasons at Walt Disney World. Yet, Disney and its marketing gurus manage to find ways to entice visitors year-round. It may be resort discounts, marathon weekends, cheerleading competitions, festivals, or holiday-inspired parties. But, even during “slow times,” the crowds may be more than you expected. So our best advice is to learn how to deal with the crowds instead of trying to avoid them altogether.

  1. Visit During Slower Seasons

Avoid the busiest times, such as holidays, spring break, and summer, when crowds are the heaviest and wait times for attractions are long. Even during the slow periods, one day might be more crowded than the next. For lighter crowds, visit from late January until the middle of March. Or from the middle of August through the middle of October. 

2. Plan Ahead

After making your reservations, you’ll be able to log in to the My Disney Experience app. Spend time getting to know the app and learning how to use it. Get familiar with the parks ahead of time. Using the map feature, understand the layout of each park. Find where all your must-ride attractions are. Learn where the entrance/exit is relative to the rest of the park, allowing you to make a quick exit if you need to. Locate First Aid and the Baby Care Center in each park for a calm, quiet place to escape if needed. Whatever you need will be at your fingertips if you take the time to get to know My Disney Experience.

3. Choose the Best Times to Ride the Attractions

  • Start Early – Did you know that guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels can enter the theme parks 30 minutes early daily? Be sure to take advantage, as crowds are lighter first thing in the morning. Then, you can head straight to the most popular attractions when the lines start forming. Our advice isn’t that you should get to the parks precisely 30 minutes early. Instead, get there 30 minutes before the early entry time for your best advantage.
  • Stay Late – After the last parade and fireworks of the night, many guests head back to their resorts. Avoid the shops because most guests are grabbing last-minute souvenirs. Instead, head toward the popular attractions, where you’ll find lighter crowds and shorter lines.
  • Ride During Lunch – Between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm is when most people are having a break and sitting down for lunch. Use this time to ride attractions instead. You’ll find that many have shorter lines during this period.
  • Keep Track of Wait Times – Keep a close eye on wait times using the My Disney Experience app. If you see a wait time for your favorite ride decrease, take advantage and hop in line for a shorter wait.

4. Take a Mid-Day Break

You’ve spent the usual lunch hours riding attractions with shorter lines. Now you’re ready for a break and some food. After 2:00 pm, refreshed from their afternoon break, the crowds will return to the parks. This is your cue to take a midday break.

You have several options available:

  • Head back to your resort.  Have lunch, a nap, or some time at the resort pool.
  • Go resort hopping. If you’re near the Monorail station or Skyliner, take a short ride to a nearby resort. Grab some lunch, go shopping, or try a different resort pool.
  • Consider activities outside the parks. Take a Minnie Van to Disney Springs for a bite to eat and some serious shopping. Play a round at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf, or go horseback riding or fishing at Disney’s Fort Wilderness.
Fishing at Fort Wilderness

Whatever activity you choose, you’ll beat the afternoon theme park crowds. Return between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm when many will be preparing for dinner or park hopping.

5. Eat Smart

You’ll find three things if you arrive at a quick service restaurant at the usual lunch or dinner hour in any of the Disney Parks. Crowds, long lines, and not a lot of available seating.

Here are three easy ways to avoid crowds at mealtime:

  • Grab lunch or dinner at a Disney resort. Take a park break and head to any resort for lunch or dinner. These restaurants will be much less crowded than the ones in the parks.
  • Use Mobile Ordering. Order ahead using the My Disney Experience app. All quick-service restaurants offer Mobile Ordering. If you’re in line for an attraction and you get hungry, find a restaurant nearby and place your mobile order. When you get off the ride, your meal will be ready for you to pick up. Better yet, place your mobile order in the morning and choose a pick up time in the afternoon. 
  • Eat during off times. Don’t plan to eat lunch at noon or dinner at 6:00 pm. Try to eat a little before or after the typical times to save yourself from running into crowds. If you can hold off eating breakfast until 10-10:30 am, stretch lunchtime until 2:00 pm and eat dinner around 7:00 pm, you’ll miss most of the mealtime rush.

6. Shop Smart

Use Merchandise Mobile Check-out at Walt Disney World Shops

  1. On the My Disney Experience app, press the + and choose the Merchandise Mobile Check-out option.
  2. Scan the barcodes on your merchandise and press “Check Out” to pay on your phone.
  3. Grab a bag and show your QR confirmation code to a Cast Member on your way out.

A receipt will be emailed to you. It’s that easy! And you’ve just managed to escape the long lines at the cash registers.

7. Find the Secret Shortcuts and Hidden Spots.

There are plenty of hidden spots and uncrowded shortcuts that you can take to escape the crowds.

Do a little searching when looking for a place to sit down and rest. Don’t go for the first open seating areas you find. You’ll likely find a quieter, shadier spot that will be more peaceful than a spot out in the open.

Many shortcuts in the parks are not well known to most guests. Use these shortcuts when you need to get around a parade or for a few minutes to relax. These shortcuts will be a lot less crowded. Meaning you can stroll along at your own speed rather than forcing yourself to go along with the high speed of traffic on the main pathways.

8. Consider Alternate Forms of Transportation

The best thing about Disney bus transportation is that it’s free. The worst? It can get very crowded. It may be a long wait at a crowded bus depot, eventually heading onto a very crowded bus that is standing room only. Or you might not make it onto the first bus that comes and need to wait for the next one. 

Consider other forms of transportation:

  • Take an Uber or Minnie Van to your destination.
  • Use the Monorail to visit the Magic Kingdom or Epcot.
  • Use the Skyliner to reach Hollywood Studios and Epcot. 

Use the following walkways:

  • Grand Floridian Resort to Magic Kingdom
  • Contemporary Resort to Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot area resorts to Epcot International Gateway and Hollywood Studios

9. Beware the Entertainment

By entertainment, we mean parades, firework shows, and character cavalcades. These events bring huge crowds and are often standing room only. Skipping these events means you can ride attractions and experience shorter wait times.

However, despite the crowds, we know you don’t always want to skip those events.

So here are a few tips:

  • Find a spot early. Often you’ll find outdoor seating at a restaurant right along the parade route. Meaning other guests won’t crowd around you to watch the parade.
  • Usually, the best parade viewing is from a seat on the ground right along the rope line. But, again, these spots go fast, so you must get there early. People may crowd behind you but won’t crowd in front of you.
  • For the fireworks show, our best advice is to watch from a distance. You can see the fireworks from most places in the park. If you plan to leave the park after the fireworks, choose a spot on Main Street near the park exit. You can still see the fireworks and have fewer people around you. You’ll also have a head start exiting the park and getting to the buses first.

10. Pray for Rain

When it rains at Walt Disney World, many guests head into the stores and restaurants. Others choose to leave the parks and head back to their resorts. 

Rain is frequent but usually short-lived at Disney. And contrary to popular belief, the parks do not shut down during rain. Many rides operate as usual. The only time outdoor rides will close is if there is lightning in the area. 

As long as you have the proper gear to keep yourself as dry as possible, embrace rather than escape the rain. Throw on your poncho and head out into the rain. You’ll enjoy much less crowded walkways and shorter wait times for rides. 


About the Author: Michelle Elmassian

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