Home » 7 Easy Hacks to Wake the Heck Up at Walt Disney World

7 Easy Hacks to Wake the Heck Up at Walt Disney World

Girl in princess dress asleep on storybook

Why are Disney princesses always falling asleep? Perhaps its because they keep spending jam-packed days at Walt Disney World.

While The Most Magical Place on Earth can bring out impressive bursts of energy in children and the extraverted, between late night flights, long drives, arriving at opening gate, waiting in queues, rushing between reservations, going to bed at the toll of midnight, losing your glass slipper, turning from a carriage back into a pumpkin, protecting the singing field mice from the Aristocats—I digress. Walt Disney World is a fun place, but it can also prove an exhausting one.

If true love’s kiss isn’t enough to wake you from your sleeping spell, here are seven of our favorite easy hacks to stay the heck awake on your next trip to Walt Disney World!

1. Reclaim your sleep

Girl in princess dress asleep on storybook

Image: elPadawan, Flickr (license)

If you are reading this while tired, I know what you might be thinking…

BOO! BOO THIS WOMAN! I just zonked out on Peter Pan’s Flight and need to wake up NOW!

The truth is the best way to wake up at Walt Disney World is to be proactive with a plan before you arrive. While the common adage is that sleep is for the weak, your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Instead of just squeezing in sleep as you go, plan to reclaim your sleep from minute one.

If at all possible, resist the temptation to stay out super late if you’ll be trying to hit opening gate the next morning, particularly for Extra Magic Hours (which are something of a mixed bag anyways). Avoid caffeine from about 3pm on and don’t try to use a nightcap to lull you to sleep—science has proven alcohol generally disrupts sleep patterns and is likely to wake you back up in the middle of the night. If you need something to help you settle and adjust to jet lag, quick-dissolve melatonin is a good choice, particularly if you can take it at your preferred bedtime (based on Florida time) for 1-2 weeks prior. If you really need a “sleeping potion” for you and the little ones, you can’t go wrong with warm milk which has traces of tryptophan.

Speaking of your little ones, it’s pretty hard to sleep when they’re bursting with energy. Give kids some extra time to run their energy off an hour or two before bedtime. Shamelessly use some super-soothing kid-safe lavender bath goodies to lull them into relaxing. As an extra helpful bonus, Disney resorts actually have bedtime stories ready to go! Duffy the Disney Bear reads bedtime stories on your resort television (currently channel 38) from 6-10pm every night.

Essential oils like lavender, jasmine, and frankincense are nice for adults too as the scent can help lull you to sleep. You can also use the same noise generator apps we mentioned in our article on How to Calm the Heck Down at Walt Disney World to create a soothing soundscape and block resort noise—our favorites are Relax Melodies (for Android and iOS) and the “Sleep” playlists on Spotify Premium (you’ll want no ads while sleeping).

2. Find good coffee

Cold Brew Coffee from PB&G at The Four Seasons

Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

We’ve talked about how difficult it can prove to find a decent cup of coffee at Walt Disney World before—sorry, Joffrey’s fans, but their sugary frost-lixirs just don’t make the cut for some. There are Starbucks locations in all four of the parks, but these are often extremely busy in the morning—plus, Starbucks also isn’t a favorite of many coffee aficionados.

Our favorite place to get coffee at Walt Disney World is the Java Bar at the Walt Disney World Swan. Because the Swan is owned by Starwood Hotels, they have no contractual ties to any of Disney’s sponsors and can just make plain good coffee, including Nitro Cold Brew. The Dolphin also has several quick service locations with decent coffee, and their Fuel marketplace even includes some canned and bottled coffees that are good.

Other locations with excellent coffee include the Polynesian’s Kona Café with their 100% Kona French Press coffee, Lickety Split and PB&G Pool Bar at the Four Seasons Orlando, as well as the Press Pot Coffee at Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The Moorish Coffee at Epcot’s Tangierine Café is also decent in a pinch. Some of these may prove out of the way if you need a daily cup of Joe, so the no-fail way to have great coffee every day is to make sure your room has a coffee pot (all DVC rooms do while many Disney resort rooms do as well) and bring some pre-ground beans from your favorite brand.

If you need something stronger than coffee like an energy drink, be aware that they are weirdly tricky to find at Walt Disney World. Java Bar at the Swan generally has Red Bull, and some resort shops and cafeterias have an energy drink or two. In the parks, you’ll probably need to stick to coffee and other tricks to stay awake—which may not be such a bad thing as energy drinks take a pretty rough toll on our bodies with their high sugar, caffeine, and mystery chemical content.

3. Have a morning routine

Seven Dwarves Marching

Image: Disney

Keeping any semblance of a morning routine on a Disney trip can seem impossible—however, there are some things you can do first thing in the morning to help jolt your brain awake. Some of this will require a little prep the night before, but it will be worth it in the end.

When you go to bed, don’t put your phone or alarm clock within reaching distance. Instead, put it somewhere on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn it off. As soon as you are up, grab a cup or bottle of cold water and drink it to jolt your system awake. When you head to the bathroom after washing your hands, wash your face with cold water immediately.

You can customize things a bit from here depending on how much time you have. Don’t piddle around on social media on your phone—heck, block those apps for the morning if you have to. Before you even eat breakfast, get moving. You can turn this into a full exercise routine by taking a walk or heading to your resort’s gym, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Just get moving. Do 10 pushups. Jog in place for a minute. If you have time, try a 7-minute workout or a more intense home workout routine based on your favorite movies or action tales from Darebee.com. If you can get outside to get some sun and fresh air, do it! It will help wake you up even more. If you meditate or pray, do so to start your day on the right foot. Try to do everything so far before the kids wake up and need help getting ready.

Follow up your mini-exercise/kid-corralling with a good breakfast. Unless you’re doing an extra-special character breakfast or heading somewhere like Kona Café, I highly recommend making arrangements to take breakfast in your room. Cereal, oatmeal packets, and fruit are cheap, and you can always pour those funds into other areas of your trip budget. This is easiest if you have a kitchenette in your room like DVC resorts offer. After breakfast, you can finish getting ready and head off to the parks with plenty of energy for your day ahead. Customize your morning routine to meet your needs, keeping the elements that help you wake up and get going.

4. Minty fresh

Girl playing mini golf at Winter Summerland

Image: Disney

There are all sorts of mini-hacks for waking yourself up during the day. We don’t particularly recommend slapping yourself (or getting slapped), but various tricks people use include gentle tugging the hair or ears, using yoga breathing or acupressure, and even eating straight lemons (ouch for the teeth!).

One of the easiest hacks for waking up is one your closest loved ones will appreciate—have some mints! If you can handle straight peppermint essential oil, a drop is usually all it takes to wake up (make sure it’s a grade safe for ingestion). Regular candy mints like Altoids, Tic-tacs, and chewing gum can also work. The stronger the peppermint the better, particularly if you can smell it. Strong flavors like peppermint and ginger can really help wake you up if you start fading.

5. Get the blood pumping

Boys on Expedition Everest

Image: Disney

Remember our tip about exercising in the morning? The same goes for throughout your day. When you feel your energy start to wane, if there’s not a way to take a rest, get your blood pumping.

Walt Disney World requires a lot of walking. Instead of hopping on a friendship boat, take a walk instead. World Showcase and Disney’s Animal Kingdom both have great paths for walking, and outside of the parks, you can also enjoy Disney’s beautiful walking trails, such as the one between Epcot and Hollywood Studios or the one between Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary Resort. If you’re pretty much stuck in one spot, do a little jogging in place or having some play time with your kids somewhere like Tom Sawyer Island or Dinoland USA.

It goes without saying that unless you’re planning on catching a nap, maybe don’t head for the sleepiest rides in the park when you’re tired (I will admit to a Spaceship Earth nap or two). Instead, jump on a thrill ride to stimulate your system and get that adrenaline pumping! The Aerosmith Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain, and Test Track are all your friends if you need to wake up!

6. Eat smart

Noodle Salad from Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen

Image: Jett Farrell-Vega (@mykingdomforamouse Instagram)

The standard fare most guests consume at Walt Disney World basically make a sleeping potion—funnel cakes, turkey legs, ice cream, so much cheese… It’s no wonder most of us want to pass out in a sunbeam half-way through the day. Dairy, heavy sugars, fried foods, and fatty, salty proteins are more likely to tire you out than wake you up.

While part of the fun of a Walt Disney World vacation is indulging in some decadent foods, try to keep things balanced. Disney has more healthy options for guests to eat than ever before. Eat foods that give you sustainable energy and boost the metabolism. At Animal Kingdom, instead of loading up on cheese at Pizzafari, have a grain-veggie-protein bowl at Satul’i Canteen. At Magic Kingdom, instead of downing hot dogs at Casey’s Corner, try some of the balanced and zesty plates at Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen or a Greek Salad from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, things get a little more challenging, but even the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater offers some veggie-full entrees. Epcot is the easiest place to eat healthy, with great options at Sunshine Seasons in the Land, Japanese bowls at Katsura Grill, and Mediterranean at Spice Road Table and Tangierine Café.

Also, instead of relying on Disney to keep you going with snacks, bring your own! Beef jerky, baked chips, apples, and peanut butter are all great choices, particularly if you have kids.

7. Take a nap!

Sleeping lion

Image: Rennett Stowe, Flickr (license)

In the end, your body needs sleep, and giving it sleep is the best solution. If you don’t have an afternoon to spare chilling at the resort, make time for a quick nap, even at Walt Disney World!

Experts recommend arriving at the parks at opening gate then taking a mid-day break. This gives you some time to rest and the kids some time to settle when crowds start getting craziest and lines the longest. If you’re staying on Walt Disney World property, this can prove pretty easy—just head back to the hotel and enjoy a nap! Don’t cave if the kids are fussy about leaving. Your little ones may need a nap too, and they can also watch some of Disney’s hilarious cartoons back in the room if they just won’t sleep. Come back to the parks later after you’ve refreshed.

If you don’t have a resort room, there are still ways to catch some rest. You can find a quiet place in Walt Disney World to at least settle, rest your eyes, or meditate—at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Wars Launch Bay is a great choice. At Magic Kingdom, Tom Sawyer Island is great, as is the upstairs of Columbia Harbour House. At Epcot, we love the gardens of World Showcase and the courtyards of Morocco, and at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Discovery Island trails are very quiet. If you have a partner who is awake, head onto slightly-longer dark ride like Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, or the PeopleMover. Have them wake you up when the ride is over.

Even if you don’t have a room, there are places to catch a rest at Walt Disney World’s resorts. We love the hammocks around the Swan and Dolphin, and the Boardwalk Inn also has a great lobby and resting area (some of the chairs are less-than-comfy but others are better). The beaches of the Polynesian and Grand Floridian have some great spots where you can slip in a nap, as do the lobbies of Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. For an ideal power nap, aim for 20 minutes of sleep. Anything longer will leave you groggy. At that point, you’re better off heading to your resort and taking a full 90-minute nap to match a sleep cycle.

So what other ways do you use to wake the heck up at Walt Disney World?