Almost everyone knows the really lowdown Disney World hacks, like putting vodka in a water bottle or filling up on free tomato slices and liquid Velveeta at the toppings bars (note: We neither recommend nor endorse those actions), but here are a few smart (and less dirtbaggy) tips that locals can use to get the most out of our friendly overlords.
Visit DAK on cloudy or cool days for more active animals
Every Disney blog seems to recommend visiting Disney Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. Word on that secret is out and now there's a mad rush for the safari when the park first opens, so instead wait for a cloudy, cooler day to visit. The Florida heat makes the animals lethargic from mid-morning until just before closing time, but on cloudy days the animals tend to be a bit more active. A cloudy day also means that this lushly landscaped park might actually be cool enough for humans to enjoy casually.
Character breakfast dining is less crowded the closer you get to lunch
And that means more time with the characters. Most guests wake up early, eat at their resort, then head out to the parks. A late breakfast will usually be less crowded; you'll get more one-on-one time with the characters and a much quieter dining experience.
Use Uber to get around the property
Waiting on a Disney bus could be a Gitmo torture technique: screaming kids, smelly tourists and no guarantee of room on the bus when it arrives. Skip all of that by using Uber. Do keep in mind that Uber can only go in areas regular guests are able to drive (i.e., not in Magic Kingdom) and on the busiest days, surge pricing may be in effect.
Free ice water is available at all quick service food locations
Disney World isn't known as a place with a lot of free things, but one thing is free almost anywhere you go on property: hydration. All quick service restaurants (the ones where you order at a counter) offer free ice water upon request – so much more refreshing than the trickle from a water fountain or that lukewarm liquid sloshing around in your Nalgene. (Hey, it's the little things.)
Skip the sit-down meal
Wolfgang Puck has long been a popular Disney Springs/Downtown Disney dining choice, and spanking-new Morimoto Asia is buzzing as well, but both offer lower-priced quick-serve options. Wolfgang Puck Express has some of the best-reviewed pizza on property, with large portions, unique plating and a fun atmosphere. (The Express also is one of the few places in Disney Springs to be open for breakfast every morning.) Morimoto Asia recently added a "Street Food" area, with counter service and a shady terrace open from 5-11 p.m.
Buy gas on property
Disney World is known for through-the-roof pricing, but some things can actually be surprisingly cheap, and one of those things is gas. The three on-property gas stations seem to sell gasoline for a price that's an average of area (non-park) prices, whereas just off property, you'll find some of the most expensive gas in the nation, often topping $5 a gallon. So don't wait to fill up, or you could be paying more than three times the on-site price.
Don't forget about dining in the non-Disney WDW hotels
Disney World has plenty of great food options, but not all of them are in Disney resorts. The new Four Seasons has some of the highest-rated dining in all of Orlando with Capa, Ravello and Plancha, and Hotel Boulevard includes other great options like the recently rebranded American Kitchen at the B Resort & Spa. The Grand Cypress has the stunning new LakeHouse, and the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista across from Disney Springs even offers a Disney character breakfast a few times each week.
Use World Gateway instead of Epcot's front gate
With new security measures and rising attendance, Epcot's front gates can get backed up – skip 'em and use the World Gateway entrance instead. Located between the U.K. and France pavilions, this smaller entrance is designed for the Crescent Lake resorts, but there's nothing stopping others from using it. A boat runs directly from the DHS parking lot, and if you're using Uber or Disney transit, there shouldn't be any issues accessing this overlooked entry point.
Use the Children's Activity Centers
Disney World is designed for family, but sometimes an adult night out is in order. On your way to date night, drop the kids off at one of the five Children's Activity Centers on property. The centers are like a single evening of summer camp with games, food and movies on the agenda. Pricing varies, but all of them are open every evening.