Insider spoke with 7 former Disney parks employees to find out what they wish visitors knew.
Don't ask employees to break the rules for you, and remember to be kind to them.
Some cast members advise avoiding Magic Kingdom on Mondays and arriving at all the parks early.
Getting an early start is a great way to maximize your day.
For most people, vacations provide a rare opportunity to catch up on rest and relaxation.
But Lara G., who worked as part of Disney's International College Program (ICP) in 2008 and 2009, told Insider that those first hours of the morning are often your best bet for hitting the popular attractions with shorter wait times.
"It is worth waking up very early to go to the most competitive attractions first," she said. "Losing three hours of your day in the queue for Soarin' Around the World at Epcot can be very frustrating."
It's true that many of the top-tier rides and attractions rack up wait times of an hour or more, so making a beeline for the things on the top of your list is crucial.
Florida guests may want to avoid Magic Kingdom on Mondays.
Disney parks across the board are more crowded on weekends and holidays. But you might want to rethink hitting up Disney World's Magic Kingdom on a Monday, according to William S., who worked as a Disney College Program (DCP) participant in 2008 and returned to work at the parks in 2009 and 2010.
"As a former Disney cast member, I suggest avoiding Magic Kingdom on a Monday," he said. "Crowds are usually larger on Mondays than in the middle of the week."
"Cast member" is the title Disney uses for all its park employees.
You don't always have to get stuck lugging your souvenirs around the park all day.
It can be tough to resist the urge to stock up on your souvenir must-haves during a day at the parks, but if you're staying at a Disney resort, you can give your arms a well-deserved break.
"If you are a collector like me who stocks up on merchandise, and you're staying on Disney property, have your purchases sent to your resort so you don't have to carry them around all day," William S. told Insider. "If you are not staying on property, you can still have packages sent to the front of the park for pickup when you leave."
The parks can get sunny all year long, so don't forget to pack sunscreen.
If you're visiting a Disney park, especially the ones in Florida, there's a good chance you'll be spending a lot of time outside, exposing your skin to more sunlight than you might be used to.
Another former DCP alumna, Brittany B., said that guests should always be prepared with sunscreen.
"Even if it's not that hot outside, the sun is strong. I saw so many people with horrible sunburns," she said.
There are few ways to ruin a vacation faster than a painful sunburn, so taking a few minutes to apply sunscreen in the morning before heading out to the park — and reapplying throughout the day — is crucial.
Yes, Mickey and his friends get very hot throughout the day.
You may have heard rumors that Mickey and his other furry friends have built-in fans or cooling systems, but former entertainment cast member Emily said that isn't true.
"The one thing I still get asked, and would on set, was if there were fans inside the costume. Nope! And yes, it's very hot in there," she said. "However, you're only on set for half an hour at a time. Even less time if it's above a certain temperature."
Instead of buying a water bottle, you can oftentimes get a cup of water for free.
Especially during the warmer months, you'll want to make sure you're drinking enough water throughout the day at the Disney parks.
"Never fall for the trap of buying water bottles for $5 at the parks," said Rachel W., a former cast member at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "Almost every quick-service location will give you a cup of water for free and some have large coolers to refill. It's a major money saver."
You can experience plenty of Disney magic without paying the price of park admission.
If you're visiting the Disney parks in Orlando, Florida, former Epcot cast member Amanda C. recommends spending the day at Disney Springs, Walt Disney World's on-site shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.
"Disney Springs can be an entire day outside of the parks. Best of all, it's free! It's great if you don't want to buy a ticket on a travel day but still want the kids to have fun, see characters, eat at some really cool restaurants, and do some shopping," she told Insider.
Disney cast members prioritize safety above everything else.
Brittany B. told Insider that she wishes visitors knew that cast members' top priority is safety.
" ... We spend hours training on how to ensure guests are safe and have a magical experience," Brittany B. said. "When cast members ask guests not to stand on railings or to keep their hands inside the ride vehicles, it's not to make their day more annoying or to give them a hard time for fun — it's just so they stay safe."
She continued, "Leaving Disney with an arm in a cast or a cut isn't magical for anyone, so just know that cast members are there to make sure you're having a great time — safely."
Cast members probably can't bend the rules for you, no matter how minor your request may seem.
Cast members are tasked with making sure every guest feels special at a Disney park, so don't put them in an awkward position by asking them to break the rules for you.
"Disney is Disney (a huge and respected company for decades) because of its rules and organization, so there is no exception for cutting lines or allowing your child in attractions when he is not tall enough," Lara G. said.
She said people can get "very rude and annoying" when cast members deny their requests, but that staff must still be polite and kind in these situations.
Treat cast members, and other park-goers, with kindness and patience.
Disney employees truly do care about making your day special. But it's important to remember that they are people, too, and everyone who is visiting the parks is just trying to have a good day.
"When it comes to cast members, and other park-goers in general, it's important to remember that everyone is human and everyone is trying to have the best experience possible," Rachel W. said. "You'd be surprised at the magic you'll find when you try to create magic for others!"
"Cast members are, in fact, real people with lives outside the parks. They work so hard to make sure you have an experience you can't get anywhere else, but they are people with flaws, bad days, and challenges," Natalie O., a two-time DCP alumna who worked at Disneyland in 2010 and Epcot in 2011, told Insider. "Cast members aren't robotic, programmed portions of the Disney experience. They aren't computers with access to information like 'When is the rain going to stop?'"
When in doubt, just try to be kind to the cast members you encounter.
"Treat them the way you'd want to be treated, chat with them in line about Disney trivia, just ask how their day is going — most [cast members] by and large are your friends, not rule enforcers to skirt around," Natalie O. said.
Disney magic can sometimes come from unexpected places.
Plenty of families spend months or years planning and saving up for a trip to Disney, but there are always unexpected circumstances that might pop up and change your plans, including illness, bad weather, ride closures, or long lines.
"One thing I wish everybody knew when they visit Walt Disney World is that there are magical experiences everywhere. So even if your favorite ride is closed or under repair there will always be an equal or greater opportunity to explore something new and different," said Amanda C.
She told Insider that she loved hearing visitors say they never would've found a new ride or different show had the one they originally wanted to check out not been closed.
The most-asked question will probably make you chuckle.
The most-asked question cast some members at the Magic Kingdom get is a surprising one.
"As cast members, we always joked that the number-one question at Disney World is 'What time is the 3 o'clock parade?'" Lara G. told Insider.
Cast members are certainly there to help guests, but sometimes just thinking about a question before you ask it can save everyone a lot of trouble.
Getting everyone in the photo is easier than you'd think.
Photo memories are among the most precious for groups visiting the parks, so ensure that no one is left out by having to take the group photo.
"[Cast members are] always encouraged to ask a family posing for a picture if they wanted their picture taken so that nobody was left out of the photo," Amanda C. told Insider.
"For so many people, they might never get the opportunity to come back, and that picture with their mom, dad, or grandmother in it — instead of being the one taking the picture — could mean the world to them," she added.
Disney magic really is for people of all ages.
Natalie O. told Insider there's no age limit on having a magical time at Disney.
"Disney is for everyone, not just those with kids. There's nothing weird about being an adult with a love of Disney," she said.
Note: Sources last names were withheld for job security reasons, but Insider verified the former cast members' employment.
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