The most important thing to bring to Disney World

Dec 28, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

A trip to Disney World should be a magical experience for a family, but it can also be plagued with long lines, short tempers and confusion.

On a family’s Disney World packing list you’re likely to find: Mickey ears, water bottles, snacks, backpacks, shoes you can walk a half-marathon in, colorful Magic Bands, hats, credit cards, ponchos, matching shirts and maybe even some princess dresses — and a stroller. But over my many visits to Disney theme parks this year, I came to believe that there is one thing you absolutely must have for a successful visit to Disney World — and not everyone knows to bring it: an app.

It may seem silly to be at Disney World and see people checking their phones the second a ride comes to a stop, but chances are high they are doing so for a good reason. These days, if you go to Disney World and don’t religiously use the park’s Disney World app, you are probably doing it wrong.

Related: How to save money on a trip to Disney World

(Photo by Melissa Ann Photography)

I’m not a fan of relying on an app for every little thing, but without having and using the My Disney Experience functionality on the Disney World app you are going to wait longer for food and rides, miss out on FastPasses and more. If you have been to Disney in the last few years, you already know this. But for the grandparents, first-time visitors and others who simply don’t live and breathe by a smartphone, here are three reasons why you absolutely must bring the Disney app to Disney World.

Related: Save money at Disney by renting Disney Vacation Club points

For more TPG news and travel tips delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.

You can see real-time waits

You don’t have to walk up to a ride to see that there is a 180-minute wait. With the app, you can quickly scan all the real-time waits in the parks, saving you some steps or heartache before you trek all the way to the other side of the park for a wait time that is beyond your personal threshold. Or, you can use the app to see if an attraction is not operating, as it will be marked with a star instead of a posted wait time.

On the flip side, in the app you can quickly see if an attraction (or even an entire park) has lower wait times. You can make a beeline in that direction and hopefully get in line before others do the same.

(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Grab more FastPass+ reservations on the go

Sixty or 30 days before the start of your Disney World trip, depending on whether you are staying on- or off-site, you can book three advance FastPass+ reservations per day, per person. This allows you to skip a big chunk of the line and usually wait 10 to 15 minutes (or less) to board an attraction.

However, you can’t always get your first-choice FastPasses in advance. People change their plans on the fly in the parks and you can often scoop up better FastPasses during your trip. The trick is to keep refreshing the FastPass screen in the app dozens, or even hundreds of times. Some call this “pounding the app” (others likely just call it crazy), but so many people are changing FastPasses while in the parks that if you keep checking, you can often eventually find what you want.

Not only that, but once you use up your three prescheduled FastPass+ bookings, you can also get more on the day of your trip in the app. So, once you use up that third FastPass+ booking, immediately go into the My Disney Experience app and grab another one.

Related: Best Disney rides around the world

Use mobile ordering for food

At Disney, you know there will be waits for rides, but you don’t need long waits for meals. On a recent trip to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, our stomachs were growling while waiting for our boarding group to be called for Rise of the Resistance. The line to order food at Docking Bay 7 was quite literally stretching out the door.

Instead of waiting in that line, we fired up the app and ordered breakfast via mobile ordering. That allowed us to skip the long line and order from the comfort of a table. Most of the quick-service restaurants at the Disney resorts and in the parks have this functionality, so you can place your order before you get to the restaurant. (Make sure you link a credit card that gives you a bonus on dining charges.)

(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Related: These are the best restaurants at Disney World

You basically need the app to ride the newest ride

Although Disney keeps tinkering with the exact process to experience the brand new Star Wars-themed Rise of the Resistance attraction, you pretty much need the Disney World app to request a boarding group as soon as the park opens (you must be in the park to do so). You then will get a pop-up notification from the app when it is your group’s time to head to the attraction.

Technically you can request a boarding group from a Disney cast member, but it is likely quickest to do it yourself. Time is of the essence because the boarding groups for the day disappear shortly after they are released first thing in the morning.

Related: Best credit cards for a trip to Disney

New Rise of the Resistance attraction (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
New Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disney World. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Planning and strategizing a Disney World trip both in advance — and while it is happening — is almost part of the fun for me. However, every time I walk down Disney’s  “Main Street, U.S.A.” and look around at the thousands and thousands of people, I wonder about those who perhaps haven’t been before, or haven’t been in a long time. No one should show up at Disney for a day of fun in the parks without advance planning and knowledge — or without the park’s app.

(Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Unless they splurge on a VIP tour, there’s no question that Disney guests without the app are spending far longer in line for everything from the Haunted Mansion to Casey’s hot dogs than those who are managing their trip on the fly with a few taps of the finger. Even if you aren’t normally all-in on apps, make an exception before your next trip to Disney World. If you are heading to Disneyland, our tips are a bit different, but do still involve an app.


Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.