With the holidays right around the corner and so many of you planning to give the gift of Disney, I thought it was a good time to republish these tips for planning a Walt Disney World Vacation without Over Planning!
Even though I visit Walt Disney World regularly, I’m still always on the look-out for new information, fun things to do and great videos to watch with my grandchildren to prepare them for their next trip. My favorite spot for all things WDW is Jones Family Travels because they visit everything in the area, not just Disney Parks and they also make the BEST videos of their travels!
Walt Disney World Resort is a perfect vacation destination for families, friends or even all by yourself! I visit several times a year because there is so much to do, we rarely do the same things over and over again. Many people that have never visited WDW before or haven’t visited often, sometimes feel a little overwhelmed when they start planning. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming or confusing – it’s vacation! Go with the flow – I know-I know -every says you can’t. Everyone says that you have to plan every last detail. But you really don’t have to. I go often with very few plans except for where I will stay and maybe a handful of dining reservations. I don’t want to go on vacation and spend endless hours creating a schedule before hand. I don’t want to be on a schedule when I’m away either. There have been times that I have decided to go with only a few weeks notice so end up going with no plans at all!
There are really only a few important things to do in order to plan your trip. Before planning be sure to sign up on-line for a My Disney Experience account to make your planning easier. Also download the app so you can do some planning from your phone also!
Choose When to Go and For How Long
Many people can only travel at certain times of year due to work and/or school, so if that’s the case for you, you will need to make your reservations as early as you can. Summer and school holidays are busy times at Walt Disney World.
There are also several special events and celebrations during the year that you may want to see. Two of the biggest events at the Magic Kingdom are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. They both occur on multiple dates over several weeks. Epcot hosts some seasonal festivals as well the International Flower and Garden Festival and the International Food and Wine Festival. You can find the exact dates when you are planning on the Walt Disney World website.
If you want to “do it all”, you will need at least a week or more. There are 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Disney Springs shopping district, mini golf, shows, parades, etc. The more you want to do, the longer you will need to visit. Or better yet – plan two trips at once! The first trip do some and the second trip do whatever you missed! When purchasing your park passes, you save more per day on longer tickets.
Book as early as you possibly can. This will help you get not only the hotel you want to stay in but your dining reservations as well. If any specials or discounts come out from Disney after you make your reservation, you can call and ask them to apply the discount to your reservation.
Stay On-Site or Off-Site
Families that do not visit often should definitely stay on-site. Walt Disney World Resort offers several different levels of resort – value, moderate, deluxe – as well as villas. Staying on property makes things much easier for getting to and from the parks, to and from the airport, as well as many other benefits. Guests staying in a Disney resort get Extra Magic Hours when the park opens a bit earlier or stays open a bit later just for on-site guests. You can have packages delivered to your hotel from the parks, add on the Disney dining plan (or hopefully get it free on a special offer), free parking if you drive your car to the parks and so much more. If you stay off-site you will have to pay daily for parking and also risk during busy seasons the parks closing to off-site guests because of crowds.
What’s Your Budget?
Once you have decided when to go and if you will stay on-site or off-property, decide what your vacation budget will be. This will better help you in choosing a hotel for your vacation. Reservations can be made for room only or for complete packages that include your park passes and dining plan if you decide to purchase it. You can secure your package reservation for $200 deposit with the balance due 30 days prior to travel. You can secure your room only reservation for the cost of one night stay with the balance due at check-in. Once you have a reservation, you can also make periodic payments towards the balance.
Don’t forget to budget for food and shopping too!
There are so many restaurants to choose from between the parks, Disney Springs, the resorts – it can be maddening! Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days (6 months) in advance. It is highly recommended you make reservations as soon as you can, especially if you would like to dine at a specific location. Character and specialty meals MUST have a reservation. Actually, any table service restaurant requires a reservation. The dining choices do fill up fast and you don’t want to be disappointed.
If you can’t find the reservation you want on-line, call the dining reservation line. Sometimes – not always – a Cast Member is able to find some availability for you. You can also check back every so often since sometimes people do cancel reservations for one reason or another.
Also remember, there is nothing wrong with not having reservations for a table service location. You can eat some decent and very nice meals in many of the quick service locations without a reservation.
Pick Your FastPasses!
Walt Disney World lets you plan your FastPasses earlier if you are staying on property with a package reservation. If certain attractions are important to you, definitely book your FastPass reservations at 60 days before if you are staying on property with a package or 30 days before if you only have park passes. Favorite attractions like the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Frozen Ever After will have long wait times without a FastPass.
Are you a plan every second or a fly by the seat of your pants WDW visitor?