How to Do Disney: A Disney Parks Guide by a Former Cast Member

How to Do Disney: A Disney Parks strategy guide by a former cast member at Disney World!

The year I turned 21, I worked at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I did an internship through the College Program at Walt Disney World and worked at Soarin’ Over California, in Epcot. Of course, it was magical.

I learned all  of the Disney Cast Member secrets, like why to always point with two fingers (because it’s impolite in some cultures to point with only one), how to make Magical Moments, where to find Hidden Mickeys, the correct answer to “How many Mickeys ARE there?” (ONE), and I even lived with a very good friend of Mickey & Minnie Mouse! *wink* 

One very useful thing I learned from my time as a Disney Cast Member was what I call Disney Parks Strategy (“strat” for short, because it makes me sound like a spy or someone very important). I’ll never visit Disney World or Disneyland the same way ever again. And I want to share all of my insider Disney tips with you, too! Here are the things you need to know before you go to the Disney Parks!

Hey, if you’re looking for a magical way to bring your next Disney World trip to the next level, how about trying our Disney World Scavenger Hunt? We’ve created a 50 point printable Scavenger Hunt for Disney World that will bring a whole new level of fun (and friendly competition – or unnecessarily aggressive competition, in our case) to your next Disney World trip. Sign up below to get the printable scavenger hunt delivered to your inbox – PLUS more insider Cast Member tips for your next visit!

We also love watching the Disney Vacation Planning videos produced by Disney – they’re great for helping plan your trip to Disney and for building mad hype before your trip! Click below to fill out a form so you can access hours of Disney vacation planning goodness for FREE.

Tower of Terror in Disney World, Florida.
Here’s a bonus tip: ride the Tower of Terror at sunset! It’s the best time of the day to ride it, thanks to the amazing view you’ll get at the top.

Disney for Adults

Here’s the thing: I know everyone thinks of visiting the Disney parks as a thing to do with kids. But I didn’t really appreciate trips to the Disney parks until I was an adult – especially, after I was a Cast Member. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one who didn’t crack the Disney code right away. I can’t tell you how many screaming children, exhausted parents, and miserable people of all ages that I’ve seen at Disney. How can you be miserable in the happiest place on earth? Easily, actually.

After a few hours of baking in the hot sun, spending hours on your feet, hemorrhaging an insane amount of money, and pushing past thousands of equally grumpy people, it doesn’t take much to turn your Disney excitement into hatred for every bubbly, happy person you see enjoying their stupid magical day. As my old Soarin’ manager would say, that’s when you could really use a little sprinkle of Pixie Dust. (Note to my old manager: nothing makes a sour mood worse than being sprinkled with imaginary Pixie Dust. And yes, we’re all pretty sure Pixie Dust is supposed to be Disney crack.)

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But don’t worry: Disney is NOT just for kids, and frankly, it’s often best enjoyed as an adult. I’m about to reveal a whole new, wonderful world of Disney for you, so that you too can skip through the parks like you’ve had one too many churros, Mickey Bars or Dole Whips, spending your time shrieking with glee on ride after ride rather than waiting in line feeling sorry for yourself and nursing your aching feet.

These days, when I visit Disney and implement my Disney Parks Stategy (strat), I never wait in any line for longer than 20 minutes, I see a TON of attractions and rides, I spend much less money, and generally have an amazing at Disney … yes, as an adult!

Without further ado, let me teach you my ways. Here are the things to know before going to Disney World or Disneyland!

Let’s Talk Disney Strat!

Feel free to yell this all day long in the middle of the parks to your fellow Disney-goers as needed. I do.

Landed myself in a wheelchair after pushing too hard at Disney World. Don't be me. The cast member's guide to Disney World!
Actual footage of the time I wore the wrong shoes to Disney World and landed myself in a wheelchair on day 2 of a full week at Disney. People, wear good walking shoes! On the plus side, I experienced firsthand how FABULOUS the Disney parks are for differently abled folks.

Disney Tips & Hacks

    Less time being a crankypants means more time having a blast at the happiest place on earth.  Ever looked at a screaming toddler who needs a nap and been like, “dang, toddler, I feel you”? Me too. Here’s how to avoid Disney misery.
  • Dress for comfort, not to look cute. There is no looking cute at Disney. There is only inner thigh chafing and sore feet. I learned my lesson the hard way: I landed myself in a wheelchair with a stress fracture after attempting a long day at Disney World in cute sandals. Oops.  These days, I basically dress like I’m going on a long hike, which makes sense because according to my FitBit I average around 14,000-25,000 steps per day when I go to Disney (the 25k days are when we stay at a Resort and take advantage of Extra Magic Hours! They’re called Extra Magic Hours because you get to spend 3 extra hours running from ride to ride like you’re going for the Goofy in the Disney Marathon). You’re going to be hot and walking all day long, so dress accordingly. 
  • Don’t forget to bring a rain jacket! Florida weather can be unpredictable, particularly in the winter.  Plus, you can protect yourself from a Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids deluge! My favorite rain jacket weighs nothing and packs away into a fist-sized bundle so I can carry it all day long – and my husband has the same one.
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks with you. I actually bring a hydration day pack with a 100oz bladder filled with water and stuffed to the brim with snacks, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I may look like a dork (and barking things like “let’s talk strat!” at my husband certainly doesn’t help), but I’m also a well hydrated, not-sunburnt dork who isn’t spending all of her money on expensive Disney food! Always use SPF 50+, and re-apply frequently. Here are some more tips for your Disney daypack.
  • When, not if, you get grumpy because you’re tired, hot, thirsty, or hungry, attend to those needs immediately. If you don’t, you will be miserable all day long. It is inevitable that you will hit a point in the day when you just want to sit down and do nothing. DO THAT. Do not feel guilty for spending an hour or so just relaxing in the parks. Better yet, time your break with your indulgent restaurant meal of choice for a perfect pick me up!
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  • Finding Hidden Mickeys are a fun game that make even standing in line manageable. What’s a Hidden Mickey, you ask? The official definition is “a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.” AKA, the funnest game of I Spy ever! All over the parks are secret, hidden Mickey ear shapes. They’re everywhere! Start spotting Hidden Mickeys and you’ll never be bored in the parks again. If you want to really up your Hidden Mickey game, these are the best Hidden Mickey books for everything from Disney World and Disneyland to Disney cruises.
  • Cast Members are there to help.  We’re all Disney loving Magical Moment obsessed nerds and we just want to make your day. In fact, making guests happy is the entire reason we took the job. If you need help, or anything at all, just ask a Cast Member. Dropped your ice cream cone? Ask a cast member. Need some advice about rides or food? Cast member. Looking for Hidden Mickeys? Cast member. Confused about what time the 3 o’clock parade is at Magic Kingdom? We get asked that so often that some of us have t-shirts that say “what time is the 3 o’clock parade?” All joking aside, just approach your nearest friendly Cast Member – but remember that they’re a person too, and please be respectful. And if they go above and beyond to make your day, please get their name and go to Guest Services to let them know! We get huge warm fuzzies when a guest gives us kudos, and sometimes we get rewarded in other ways as well.
The 3 o'clock parade in Main Street USA, Disney World, Florida!
Cast Member Trivia: What’s the most frequently asked question in Magic Kingdom? Answer: “What time is the 3 O’clock parade?” You think I’m joking??! Google it.

How to Skip Lines at Disney World & Disneyland

Don’t wait in line at Disney! We all know waiting in line is the worst part of visiting the parks. Why can’t we all be famous celebrities and just rent the whole park? Or at least pull a Johnny Depp and show up in a Captain Jack costume just to run around doing whatever we want? I bet he never has to wait in line! (By the way, that’s not just a rumor. He does it whenever he’s preparing for a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and I’ve spoken to many a Cast Member who’s met him in character in the parks!)

Disney minus all the people is my personal idea of heaven – which is why I LOVED closing and opening the parks! A silent, empty Disney park… ahhhh. Peace. But since I’m not a Cast Member anymore, nor am I a famous celebrity, here are the best ways for regular folks to avoid lines at Disney World and Disneyland.

  • Time your trip to Disney to avoid seasonal crowds. Use the How Packed Is It? site for your park and plan to go whenever it’s less crowded. January and February are my favorite months to visit Disney World. The park is almost empty and there are practically no lines for anything!
  • Arrive at the Disney parks before they open in the morning. There’s a little opening ceremony which is cute and all, but the real reason is so that you can hustle to your first ride of the day and have NO line, without wasting a precious Fast Pass! Sometimes you can even get in a few more rides before the rest of the crowds start showing up. Most people who show up early have a ride in mind – usually a very popular one – and will make a mad dash for it the second they’re allowed to. Don’t get trampled – throw some elbows if you have to. (Kidding! Everything at Disney is magical and nobody throws elbows. At least, not unless you’re a Cast Member. But that’s a story for another post…)
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  • Use Fast Passes religiously. NEVER waste a minute of time in the park without having a Fast Pass. Whether you are using a magic wristband at Disney World or have to run from ride to ride to pick up a paper Fast Pass at Disneyland, ALWAYS have one lined up. Fill the time between Fast Passes with rides that have shorter lines.
  • Parades are for shmucks.  If I want to meet characters, I go to character dining, so I can stuff my face with delicious food while they come to me.  In general, I’m not the character type – you’ll never find me standing in line to meet them (but all bets are off if there’s no line!) and I’m not into watching them wave repeatedly to catchy music while I’m getting shoved around in a crowd of people. If that’s your thing, great – and I know that kids go nuts for that kind of thing – and I’m glad, because you help make this tip possible: parades are the BEST time to ride rides! Everyone lines up to watch the parade and nobody’s in line for rides. 3pm at Magic Kingdom? Rides. Electric light parade? Rides. If I wasn’t a big softie for fireworks shows I’d recommend rides during those too, but they make me bawl like a baby and I can’t resist them. Although it is freaking magical to ride Big Thunder Mountain during the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom in Disney World – you have a perfect view of the castle!
    • By the way, in case you were wondering what time the 3 o’clock parade is, it’s at  3 o’clock. And here’s a fun Disney Cast Member secret: that’s the most frequently asked question in Magic Kingdom. You think I’m joking?! Google it. Disney Cast Members have the patience of saints.
  • To figure out which rides have shorter lines, use the smartphone app for your Disney park. All of the apps have wait times that are updated live. After you exit a ride or pick up a fast pass, pull up the app to figure out where you’re going next based on whatever nearby has a line under 20 minutes. As a bonus, this will guarantee that you experience an attraction that you’ve never done or didn’t put on your must-try list, which is a great way to make new favorites. I would never have developed my love for Turtle Talk with Crush or Captain EO without this strategy! Download the app for Disney World or Disneyland.
    • Disney Secret: Usually, ride times are totally accurate. But sometimes, just sometimes, a ride with a certain wait time actually has no line at all, like in the case of the Haunted Mansion or Tower of Terror. If either of those rides have a wait time of 13 minutes, guess what? There’s no line! Spooky. 
Epcot in Disney World, Florida. A guide to Disney Parks strategy by a former cast member!
Here I am at Epcot, still steaming about the time my manager sprinkled Pixie Dust on me because I didn’t smile hard enough while trying to tell a rebellious guest to “stand behind the yellow line, please.” They’re there for your SAFETY, people, just stand behind them, is it that hard!?!?!!!

How to Save Money at Disney

 We like to play a fun game: it’s called buy a house and pay off our student loan debt, or keep going to Disney World regularly? It’s a silly game because the first option isn’t possible. No, YOU’RE crying! We all know going to a Disney park is expensive. And we all suck it up and pay it because oh my goodness, it’s so worth it. But it doesn’t always have to be “We can’t afford a resort so all  6 of us are staying at the Buena Vista Motel 6 in a single room.”

The last time I visited Disney World, we stayed at a resort like ballers (I love you Pop Century!) but we also brought packets of oatmeal and ramen for our meals like broke college students. Why Oatmeal and Ramen? Because our room had a coffee maker to heat up water for us … but nothing else. Saving money at Disney World or Disneyland is all about striking a balance. Read on for our best budget-friendly money saving tips for Disney.

  • There are definitely ways to score a deal at a Disney Resort, if you know where to lookThe difficult part is figuring out which discount hotel sites the resorts are listed on. Luckily, we have a trick up our sleeve for that: HotelsCombined! You can use it to search a bunch of hotel deal sites at once. Check out deals on HotelsCombined for Disneyland and Disney World before you book. And yes, don’t worry – these bookings are legit, and you can connect it to your online account once you purchase your park tickets to make sure you get your resort benefits ASAP.
  • Pick only 1 Disney restaurant per day to have a really good meal, and 1 Disney snack. Disney food is well worth the expense, and the time will come when you will need an ice cold Mickey bar, or a delicious meal and a long sit-down in A/C. But, only buy 1 meal and 1 snack in the parks – choose wisely and make them count – and bring snacks for the rest of the day to save money.
    •  Disney Tip: My favorite snacks to bring to Disney parks are also my favorite high-energy hiking snacks: tuna fish packets with crackers, protein bars (these are my favorite), string cheese, apples or apple rings, nuts, beef jerky, and peanut butter pretzels.
  • If you have a credit card that gets you points at certain stores, use it to buy Disney Gift Cards to get a little cash back. You can use the Disney gift cards everywhere in the parks, including for your tickets! For example, I have an American Express Blue Cash preferred card that gets me 6% cash back at grocery stores. So I buy Disney Gift cards from the grocery store for a 6% discount on my Disney World trip! You can also buy Disney Gift cards from Target, which has a 5% discount card.
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  • Don’t buy a souvenir – pick up a free button instead.  The merchandise inside the parks is overpriced and not worth it for almost anyone except the most savvy collector. Instead, get your souvenir needs filled at Guest Services and other select locations throughout the park. They have a variety of free buttons that they’ll give out to anyone who asks for one! There’s everything from First Visit to Happy Birthday to Just Married, and a bunch in between! As an added bonus, cast members will congratulate you all day long while you’re wearing the button!
  • Utilize the First Aid stations. The First Aid stations in the Disney parks give out ibuprofen, band aids, and other health supplies for free – even though you can also buy them in stores throughout the Disney parks. Why pay money for something that you can get from a friendly nurse for free? They also have water and A/C if you just need a place to sit down and chill out!

Disneyland Secrets & Tips

Every Disney park is different. For example, Orlando weather makes my hair frizz out like a balloon, but Anaheim’s dry, comfortable weather means I can wear my bangs down like a normal person! Here are some Disney Hacks that are specific to Disneyland and California Adventure.

  • Never wait more than 20 minutes – even for the most popular rides at Disneyland. Want to ride the most popular rides at Disneyland without waiting more than 20 minutes? You know, the ones that always have an hours-long line? How about 2 or 3 of those popular rides? Yes, it’s possible. Here’s how:
    • Arrive before the park opens.
    • As soon as you’re allowed inside, hustle to Popular Ride #1. Pick up a fast pass.
    • Then, hustle to Popular Ride #2. If you got there fast enough (and if it’s nearby), you should get there before the line manages to build up.
    • After Popular Ride #2, either use your Fast Pass – it should be for pretty early in the day – and get a fast pass for Popular Ride #3… OR check the line at Popular Ride #3 using the Disneyland App and you might be able to do StandBy for under 20 minutes.
    • I typically get in all of my top 3 popular rides this way before noon!
  • Get a park hopper, and start your day in California Adventure. Most people start in the other park, and there are less lines but just as many great rides in California Adventure. A park hopper will let you switch back and forth all day long depending on the ebb and flow of the crowds – use your Disneyland app to help guide you.
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  • Get a Dole Whip without waiting in line. Just walk into the Tiki Room like you’re going to watch the show, but instead of going inside, go directly to the right. There’s a perfectly good Dole Whip stand that never has a line. After you’ve got your Dole Whip, just walk through the Tiki Room before the next show right through to the exit! (O you can stay and watch the show, as long you’re OK with having the song stuck in your head for the rest of your life.)
  • Need a spot to sit and cool down? The Turtle Talk with Crush building has A/C and couches to relax on during the heat of the day – all while enjoying 3 different attractions or just watching the giant screens showing scenes from your favorite Disney movies. It’s a great place to eat some snacks and get your energy back up.
  • Want a free snack? The Bakery Tour and Ghiradelli both give out free samples, tucked into a little corner of California Adventure. Besides, they’re both from San Francisco, so that makes them automatically a must-do in my eyes!
  • Score a deal at a Disneyland resort. There are 3 Disneyland resorts, and they’re ALL listed on hotel deal sites such as Expedia or Priceline – particularly for off-season dates. Save yourself time and $$ by using HotelsCombined to search through all of the of hotel deal sites at once! Check out deals for Disneyland resorts on HotelsCombined  before you book. And yes, don’t worry – these bookings are legit, and you can connect it to your online account once you purchase your park tickets to make sure you get your resort benefits ASAP.

The Everest ride in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Everest is my favorite ride EVER, and Animal Kingdom is my favorite park at Disney World!

Disney World Secrets & Tips

Ah, Disney World: my old stomping ground. Tip One: to see backstage, all you need to do is get really lost while driving around trying to find the entrance to your resort. Similarly, if you’re running late for work at Disney World, you’ll probably end up in a resort parking lot (no? just me? really??). Here are some Disney World secrets & tips for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

  • Take your Disney World game to the next level with our printable 50 point Disney World Scavenger Hunt. We’ve created a 50 point printable Scavenger Hunt for Disney World that will bring a whole new level of fun to your next Disney World trip! Compete with your friends and loved ones (because competition makes the heart grow fonder). Just sign up below and we’ll deliver the Scavenger Hunt straight to your inbox, plus some Cast Member insider tips and hacks for your next Disney World trip!

  • Staying at a Disney World resort is surprisingly budget-friendly. If you book early enough and visit Disney World during the off-season, there are some affordable resorts to be had at around $100 a night, like the All Star resorts or Pop Century, for example. There are definitely ways to score a deal at a Disney Resort, if you know where to lookWe always use HotelsCombined to search for deals on multiple hotel booking sites at once. That’s how we once scored a stay at Port Orleans for under $150/night. Whee!
    Some of the benefits to staying at a resort: Extra Magic hours (less lines! More park time!), setting up Fast Passes and restaurant reservation months in advance (allowing for serious strat advantage), free transit to and from the airport as well as throughout the parks (a HUGE savings), more Hidden Mickeys to find, discounts on park tickets for multi-day trips, and less standing between you and your bed at the end of an exhausting day. If you want to ball out, check out the food plans, but personally I’ve never found them to be worth the expense.
  • Spend a day exploring the Disney Resorts! Our favorite money-saving Disney tip is to take a day off (or 2) in between full days in the Parks and explore the Disney World Resorts. You guys, the resorts are AWESOME. They’re chock-full of Disney magic and secrets and fun, ad you can spend a whole day at the resorts having Disney adventures WITHOUT paying for a park ticket! (And no, you don’t need to be a Resort guest, either!) Our favorite way to see the resorts is by using free Disney transportation to get from place to place. We’ve designed an entire Disney World Resort Bar Crawl which makes spending a day in the parks fun, budget-friendly, and SUPER easy!
  • Check authorized budget ticket sellers, such as Best of Orlando, for Disney World ticket discounts. Sometimes you can seriously score! Buying a few tickets at once? You’ll rake in even bigger discounts. How about a Disney World Park Hopper Buy 4 & get 1 Day Free deal?If you’re wondering, like I was, don’t worry: buying park tickets from authorized sellers  is totally legit. What’s NOT legit? Buying partially used tickets or purchasing from Craigslist or Ebay. Purchase your discount Disney World tickets brand new from verified sellers ONLY! Here’s a guide to buying discount tickets to Disney World that’s really helpful.

  • Ride Everest, Test Track, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster over and over again without waiting in line. How? Use the single rider line! There’s usually very few folks in the single rider lines at Disney World, and they move pretty fast – often even faster than the Fast Pass line. From experience, I can tell you that these rides do NOT get boring after riding them alone for the 25th time in a row.
  • Want a free soda? How about 8 different types of soda, in an unlimited quantity, all for free? Stop by the Club Cool Epcot and sample different kinds of Coke from around the world. So refreshing on a hot day! Psst – a Club Cool Taste Test bonus round is one of our Disney World Scavenger Hunt challenges!  
  • Save money on transportation in Disney World. Don’t rent a car when you go to Disney World – you don’t need it! Save on the rental, gas, AND $20 per day parking. If you’re flying into Orlando, and staying at a Disney World resort, you can get the Magical Express to take you to and from the airport. Then, Disney shuttles will take you all over Disney World for free! If you’re staying at a non-resort hotel, make sure they have a Disney Shuttle to get you onto Disney property – most hotels near Disney do. Take an Uber to your hotel from the airport and then Disney shuttles will take you anywhere you need to go throughout Disney World.
  • Take a Backstage Tour for cheap. You can either look pitiful and hope a cast member offers you a Magic Moment backstage pass, OR you can head to The Land Pavilion in Epcot and pay around $20 for the Behind the Seeds tour.  It’s educational and you get to sample some free food. Maybe I’m biased – being a former Soarin’ cast member and all – but The Land is highly underrated!
Disney World's Magic Kingdom at sunset in Orlando, Florida. A cast member's guide to how to do Disney!
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom at sunset.

How to Help Keep the Disney Magic Alive

     Part of being a Disney fanatic is buying into that magical feeling that you can only get in a Disney park. As a former cast member, I still get goosebumps remembering how good it felt the first time I helped cheer up a grouchy kid and their desperate family. I walked on air all day. There’s a reason why giving Magical Moments is the assignment that every Cast Member wants to get on rotation – it’s incredibly gratifying and fun. And honestly, everyone who suffers through the many exhausting challenges of working at the happiest place on earth is really just there for one reason: because they love the magic, and they want you to love it, too! Here are some ways that you can help keep the magic alive as a guest.
  • Help preserve the magic for kids. It’s not technically lying, persay … okay, maybe it is … but unless it’s YOUR kid (and you’re kind of a dick), don’t spoil their fun. You wouldn’t tell some stranger’s kid that Santa wasn’t real, so don’t point out that cable running between Tinkerbell and the Castle during Celebrations (don’t worry kids, that’s just Prince Eric’s ESPN antenna! It connects his TV directly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports park). Instead, if you want to interact with a little price or princess, try pointing out something magical – a hidden mickey, a walking tree, a talking trash can,  or one of these gems.
  • If you have a paper Fast Pass you aren’t going to use, find someone to give it to. It’s your very own opportunity to make a Magical Moment. Maybe you’re leaving the parks, maybe a ride broke down and you got a 6-person paper pass but your party is only 3 people… if you ever find yourself with a Fast Pass you won’t use, find someone that looks like they could use a pick-me-up and give it to them. It’ll make both of your days, trust me.
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  • Say Congratulations to everyone wearing a button. This is another Cast Member move. If you see someone wearing a button that says “Happy Birthday,” tell them Happy Birthday! Likewise if it’s their anniversary, they just got engaged, or whatever it is that they’re celebrating! I totally still say “Welcome!” to everyone I see wearing a  “1st Visit” button and I get a lot of weird looks, so I guess that one isn’t transferable to non Cast Members. But the other ones totally are. There’s nothing like having hundreds of people wish you a Happy Birthday to make that day memorable and magical.
  • Just be considerate. Everyone at Disney is tired and grumpy at some point. Don’t be the one to make their mood even worse. Help keep Disney a safe haven of magic where dreams really DO come true, by being a kind and considerate person. Let the elderly, disabled, and pregnant have your seat or cut in front of you in line. Help out tired parents by asking their little Prince or Princess who their favorite Disney character is. Make Cast Members happy by staying behind the yellow line at all times, listening to and following directions, never trying to get them to “break character,” and letting their managers or Guest Services know when they’ve done an excellent job. Keep the magic of Disney alive by being a part of it yourself!

Super Secret Disney World Backstage Photos!

I know you all want to see the dark secrets hidden behind the scenes at Disney World! And while I’m still writing up a post about my favorite ridiculous Cast Member stories, I can share these super secret, highly illegal backstage photos with you. I only have 2 backstage photos, because if someone spots a Cast Member backstage with a camera backstage, they’ll be fired faster than they can say “Jiminy Cricket!”

Also, because backstage – unlike the rest of Disney World – isn’t terribly cute. The Utilidoors underneath Magic Kingdom are pretty much just hallways with giant sewer pipes running through them and half-dressed Cast Members scurrying frantically about. And Epcot, as you’ll see below, is mostly just an empty lot.

But I totally get the curiosity! If you’re dying to see Epcot’s backstage for yourself, you can always take the official Backstage Magic tour! You can also catch a glimpse of Epcot’s backstage while riding Test Track – look out over the parking lot while you’re riding outside and you’ll see the the Epcot Cast Member entrance, which leads to a hidden door next to the Mexico pavilion.

Backstage at Epcot in Disney World, Florida.
Here’s a sneak peek at the backstage of Epcot, behind Soarin’ and Canada (which are actually next to each other backstage. We shared a breakroom). The Land backstage tour goes close by, but I guess you can see why there’s no tours back here: it’s super ugly! Sorry to ruin the magic, y’all! The Utilidoors are WAY cooler.
The motto backstage at Disney World is "Safe D Begins with Me!" 3 guesses why that cracks me up every time...
I will give you 3 guesses why the Disney safety motto, “Safe D Begins With Me!” cracks me up. These signs are everywhere backstage and I giggled like a 2nd grader every time I saw one.

Get the Disney World Scavenger Hunt Printable

 You’ll find some of my favorite undiscovered Disney World secrets in our 50-question Disney World Scavenger Hunt! Sign up below and we’ll send the printable scavenger hunt straight to your inbox, plus insider tips for your next Disney World trip.

Pssst: Looking for creative ways to get SUPER PUMPED for your upcoming Disney vacation? How about soothing your Disney cravings for those in-between-Disney times? (ugh, I hate those.) Take a look at our guide to soothing your Post-Disney Depression. One of our favorite tips for easing not-at-Disney pain is to watch the Disney Vacation Planning video by clicking below!
Hey, we want to hear from you! What’s your favorite Disney hack or Disney secret? Leave us a comment below!


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Disney secrets and tips for Disney World and Disneyland in California and Florida, USA. How to save money at Disney, how to avoid lines at Disney, secret backstage photos, and an epic Disney World Scavenger Hunt!
Feature image original photo credit:  “BALLOONS – Magic Kingdom” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by lhbrizzante. Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links and a sponsored video. By purchasing through these links or watching the linked video, I will receive a small commission at no expense to you that will help cover the costs of running the blog and providing amazing content to you for free!

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Hey, I'm Lia! I'm a Kentucky native living in San Francisco. I'm extremely practical and also entirely addicted to travel, which I'm forever trying to reconcile. If I had a patronus, it would a spreadsheet. Or a llama. Possibly a llama creating a spreadsheet. I'm married to Jeremy and I'm obsessed with him and it's super gross, unless you're us, in which case it's the best.

19 Comment

  1. Very detailed. I have a lot of research to do! Thanks for sharing your advice!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Happy to help! Let me know if you have any questions about Disney 🙂

  2. Simone Ranes says: Reply

    Most enjoyable Disney post I’ve read…engaging, helpful and thoughtful…I look forward to reading your other posts

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Thanks Simone! We’re planning our next trip to Disney in February and have some really exciting Disney content planned, coming soon!

  3. Laura says: Reply

    Dissing the tiki room?! You monster 😉 as the child of Disney fanatics, I first saw the show when I was old enough for it to be real. The fond memories still remain 🙂

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Aww! That’s really sweet! I don’t have the benefit of nostalgia, so my first memory of the Tiki Room is having the song stuck in my head for roughly 72 hours. Not the fondest first impression, let me tell you.

  4. Sarah says: Reply

    The tiki room is going, news from all ears.

  5. Debbie says: Reply

    Loved the article! I am a die hard Disney freak. Been to Disneyland and World many, many times. Even Disneyland Paris twice. My bedroom and bathroom are all Disney and Mickey and I am a 56 year old women. Started going to Disneyland when I was about 9. My adult daughter even comments every time we get to any Main St, which is always first whichever park we go to, that she becomes the adult and my sister and I become the kids. Which is basically true. I even printed out all the tips for our next trip in Oct to WDW. Love the Food and Wine Festival. Always learn something new no matter how many times you go. I still like to go to the Tiki Room every time and sing with the birds , flowers and tikis.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Awesome to hear from other diehard Disney fans! We’ve got a LOT of new Disney Content coming out soon that I think you’ll really like – stay tuned!

      1. Debbie says: Reply

        Ok, I will.

  6. Monica says: Reply

    Wonderful story! Any way to change spelling in your 1st sentence to include the O in Orlando? 🙂

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Hahaha yes thank you so much for pointing it out!

  7. Pam Lee says: Reply

    I have been dying to ask someone who has been there to help me plan my 1st trip with my husband and bff (adults) with my husband who has had a stroke and is in wheelchair due to a stroke. This the 1st vacation we are flying and I have all planned except fast passes. He and my friend cannot ride roller coasters or things he can not get into being paralyzed on left arm and limited use of left leg. I am open for suggestions. Pam L

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Hi Pam, How exciting! You’ve picked an excellent place for your vacation – Disney is super friendly and accommodating to Guests with mobility challenges. I’m not an expert, but I’ll refer you to some resources that can help.

      If you scroll down on this page, you’ll find park guides for guests with mobility challenges that will help you understand the requirements of each ride in terms of getting on/off. Look for the rides with a wheelchair icon – those are the attractions you don’t need to transfer for. That will help you determine what to book your fast passes for!

      You may want to look into picking up a Disability Access Service Card (DAS), although it’s not required with a wheelchair. But this sounds helpful: ” Our Guest Relations staff will discuss with you the personal accommodations that you may require and may suggest additional accommodations that can be used in conjunction with a DAS Card. All accommodations will be
      determined in person at Guest Relations.” More information here:

      For specific questions, I’d suggest calling to speak with a Guest Services Cast Member who could help you make sure your visit is tailored for your abilities! They may be able to help suggest Fast Pass attractions that would fit your needs. Call 407-560-2547.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. And have a magical time at Walt Disney World!

  8. Jill says: Reply

    We are planning our 4th trip with our kids (10, 4, and 1 when we go.) but it will be the first our 4year old REALLY remembers and the first for our little princess.

    Disney is always so wonderful and accommodating. And the attention to detail!!

    Two things I thought might be worth adding:

    As far as being considerate and keeping the magic alive – my only consistent disappointment has been when other guests wait until the last minute to find a spot for parades and squish themselves directly in front of small children who have been waiting patiently for the parade to begin. If you’re 6ft tall,and my (or anyone’s) toddler is 3ft tall, don’t wedge yourself in front of them.

    As for saving money, we always do the ding plan but have breakfast in the room. Last time we used Amazon to ship diapers, paper plates and bowls, cereal, snacks, etc to the resort and it was delivered to our room on arrival. It was cheaper that pain luggage fees for an extra bag or purchasing the same items at local grocery stores. We had perishables and cases of water delivered by Garden Grocer, which was also cheaper than the parks or catching a can to the store.

    We are going back in January 2018 – our first time that time of year. And tips or changes to look out for?

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Those are such good tips! Our next trip to Disney will probably be with my niece, who will be 4 or 5. I’ll pass these tips along to my sister!

      January is SUCH a perfect time to go to Disney. You’ll love how empty the parks are – no squished parades, barely any lines, etc! It’s awesome. There are always new changes to Disney every time you go. If you haven’t yet ridden the Frozen ride, that one is SUPER popular with kids (especially Frozen obsessed kids, which as I understand it, is all of them!) There’s also the new Avatar world in Animal Kingdom, which I haven’t seen yet!

      If you download the scavenger hunt we created, some of it should definitely be adaptable for your kiddos, especially the 10 year old. It was designed with adults in mind, so everyone can get in on it 😛 Have an awesome trip!

  9. Don says: Reply

    I went to Avatar with my son’s family around 8-10 at night and it was beautiful with the lights. My son said it was sort of grey looking in daytime without the lighting. The wait time for the ride at 8pm was 2 and a half hours!!. We skipped it. The main point being to go after dark to see the lighting.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Ahhh that’s a crazy long line! I hope the line is more reasonable by the time we go back for our next trip (plus we usually go in January/February when the lines are usually MUCH shorter). But it sounds magical! Can’t wait to see it!

  10. Andrew says: Reply

    Hey lia, thanks for all the great suggestions! We are visiting for the first time next summer. We are staying on site for 16 nights. Can’t wait. The suggestion about going to first ride when park opens and then using fast pass is great. Thanks so much…Andrew

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