One question we get asked a lot is how we get photos in Walt Disney World without anyone in them.
People that visit WDW often probably know some tricks, but there are many that don’t, and this post is for you! Some people have asked for our “secret” (hence the title of this post), and others may even shake their head at me for sharing their “secret” and ruining it, but honestly, none of this is secret. Also, given the outrageous number of guests attending a park on any given day compared to the small number of people that read this post, I’m 100% certain these “secrets” will remain as such.
Since we’ve only been to Walt Disney World (one day we’ll visit the other parks!), this post is tailored around WDW, but many aspects could apply to other parks too.
1. Book a breakfast inside the park.
This is our #1 trick to getting daytime photos without anyone else in the photo. Our favorite? Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom! I salivate thinking about Pooh’s Puffed Toast with whipped cream and strawberries. Before this post turns into a food post, let me continue. Go onto the Disney World website and look for a breakfast before the park opens (be sure to check the park hours first so you don’t book during morning extra magic hours, because then everyone will be let in early…making this trick useless). Arrive early for your reservation, allowing yourself enough time to take photos before your reservation.
It takes quite some time to get to the gates at Magic Kingdom (parking + tram/walk + monorail/ferry = 20-30 minutes or more), so be sure to factor that into your wake up time. When you get to the gates, there will be a Cast Member with a clip board to the left, check in there and then you will be allowed to enter the park. Then, have fun taking photos! There will be some people walking around, undoubtedly others doing the same as you, just wait for them to pass before taking your photo.
Please don’t try to cheat the system or be late for your reservation, as this could potentially ruin it for others.
Your little ones may even enjoy having the extra room to run around!
2. Arrive super early to be one of the first in the park
If you weren’t able to book a breakfast, or just don’t want to spend the money for a sit-down meal, you can still try for some empty park photos. Arrive super early so that you are in the front of the crowd at rope-drop. Disney doesn’t allow you to run anywhere ahead of the Cast Members that maintain the crowd line; they do a pretty good job of limiting the madness knowing that crowds have been known to run to certain attractions, becoming a safety issue. But if you are towards the front, you can head to certain areas to quickly snap a few photos before anyone gets there.
3. Go Left
One trick we always use is the “Go Left” rule. People, especially Americans and anyone from countries that drive on the right side of the road, tend to go right when traveling. At Magic Kingdom, this means when the crowd hits the Hub, a large majority of the crowd will go right. When everyone else goes right, you go left to have less people to block your photo. Also, think about where the main attraction is for that park and go the opposite direction (i.e. don’t go towards Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios).
This trick works for more than just photos, but I’ll save that for another post.
4. Find hidden photo opportunities
There are many places and nooks to explore in all the parks. Some areas are just always crowded, mostly around main attractions and walkways, but there are plenty of spots that get a break from crowds. This is especially true at Epcot. Just wait for the random group to pass by and then snap away!
5. Stay late
This one is for the true die-hards (and the people without little kids lol) because I’m not talking 15 minutes after the park closes. It takes a long time for everyone to clear out the parks at night, especially because Disney doesn’t tell anyone to leave. Since guests are allowed to enter a ride line up until the park closes, it can take a long time for rides to be finished for the night. When the park closes, make sure you’re at the back of the park or on a ride in the back of the park, then slowly meander around the increasingly empty park taking photos as you go. Just know that as an area “gets cleared” of guests, a cast member will walk a bit behind the last guest until they make their way toward the front of the park. Once that happens, you can’t backtrack. The Hub stays busy for quite some time, but if you are willing to wait the crowd out, you can grab a few photos before the final “sweep” – I don’t know if that’s the technical or Disney term, but that’s what I like to call it.
This trick doesn’t work as well after special events, like the Halloween and Christmas parties, because the cast members seem to sweep much faster after the party ends (at least that’s what we’ve experienced).
This also doesn’t work as well if you get super nervous about Cast Members or security watching or following you. They won’t tell you to leave, but they will be 15-20 feet away, nudging you with their proximity and authoritative influence. Don’t be rude or annoying or push back, just get your photos and continue on your way out. They want to go home too!