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Liberty Square Riverboat

For most visitors, even those who have been to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando several times, a theme park vacation is fraught with excitement. A heady blend of nerves (if I log on at exactly midnight, 180 days before my trip, will I REALLY get a reservation at Be Our Guest?) and thrills (OMG, just 5 more sleeps till we’re THERE!) punctuates the run-up to your trip. Once you arrive, armed with printouts and reservation details, the actual trip is a whirlwind of action. You want to get your money’s worth, and you want to make precious memories with your family.

Yet did you know there’s an entirely different type of visitor? One who rolls out of bed and decides to go the Magic Kingdom before work, or stops in for dinner at Epcot on the way home? Locals who grew up in the area and have had annual passes for years see the parks in a whole different way. Here’s how to spot them.

1. They don’t follow the “rules”

Tony's Town Square

Walt Disney World locals are notorious for breaking all the “rules” for planning a trip. They roll in at noon on the busiest day of the year, make FastPass+ reservations after they arrive, and show up without any dining plans at all. They often carry food in a backpack or stop by crowded restaurants at an off time to try to score a walk-up table. Since they know they will be back in a few days, they’re entirely unconcerned about making the plans that ensure an excellent vacation.

2. They skip things

Parade grand marshal

Does this scene sound familiar? You’re staking out a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade, carefully positioning your family in such a way that no one can cut between you. As parade time draws nearer, your group is going to the bathroom one at a time so the others can hold the spot. Suddenly you realize that the two girls who were seated next to you are gone, and the crowd is surging into their former spot. “Why on Earth would anyone abandon their spot 10 minutes before the parade,” you think to yourself. “Are they crazy?”

Although it’s difficult to say for sure, odds are good that the girls are locals. They might have decided at the last minute that they’d rather have a Dole Whip than see the parade. They might never have had any intention of seeing the parade, but just decided to plop down and chat until the crowd got too thick. Whatever their motivation, to them, the parade is a nice thing to see but hardly something to stress out about. They already have the entire thing memorized. In fact, they might pop out of wherever they are just in time to see a specific favorite float go by.

3. They know the shortcuts

Pixar Place

Walt Disney World locals have logged literally thousands of hours in the parks. They can get from Point A to Point B in record time, even in the middle of a capacity crowd. If you have ever seen someone efficiently zigzagging through shops and back alleys, walking with a clear purpose in mind, he is probably a local. They know other shortcuts as well, such as how to get a walk-up table at Le Cellier and exactly how to catch three closing shows in the same night.

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